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Science & Environment

Nantucket Astronomer Gazes From Afar On An Island's Controversial Telescope

Artist's rendering of the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope atop Maunakea on the island of Hawaii.

A mountain top on the island of Hawaii is the proposed site for a new, very large telescope – what’s called a Thirty Meter Telescope. If built, it will be the biggest telescope in the northern hemisphere, with the potential to get sharper images than even the Hubble Space Telescope. But construction on the project has recently been halted over protests from some of the island’s indigenous people. 

Far from the Pacific Ocean, on the island of Nantucket, Dr. Michael West is Director of Astronomy at the Maria Mitchell Observatory. Before coming to Nantucket, however, he spent seven years as professor of astronomy at the University of Hawaii. He's recently completed a book on the history of modern astronomy on Hawaii, and has written a piece to appear in Scientific American about the controversy surrounding the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Dr. West joins Steve Junker on All Things Considered to discuss the challenges of reconciling the telescope's construction with the indigenous Hawaiian heritage, which also includes a reverence for star watching and astronomical navigation. Audio posted above.

There is plenty of information online about the Thirty Meter Telescope project - both for it and against it. If you are looking to find out more, here are a couple links to start your search:

The Thirty Meter Telescope website.