After years of controversy and litigation, Hawaii’s Supreme Court gave final approval yesterday for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) to be built on Maunakea, the 14,000 foot (4,200 meter) dormant volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Stargazing in Hawaii goes back nearly two thousand years.
“The ancient Hawaiians were astronomers,” wrote Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii’s last reigning monarch, in 1897.
The first people to behold Maunakea were Polynesians whose legendary ability to sail across the vast Pacific Ocean by observing the stars, winds, waves, and cloud patterns brought them to Hawaii’s shores. Hawaiian astronomers, called kilo hoku or “star watchers,” were among the most esteemed members of Hawaiian society.
No one knows for certain whether the ancient Hawaiians made astronomical observations from the summit of Maunakea. The mountain is revered as the embodiment of the piko, or umbilical cord, that connects Hawaiians through time to their ancestral origin as descendants of the gods. Perhaps the kilo hoku came to Maunakea to discern signs in the starry skies from its vantage point closest to the heavens. Or perhaps the summit was considered too sacred for such human activities.
Maunakea at sunrise
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