A recent ruling by the Hawaii Supreme Court clears the way for a large telescope to be built atop an ancient volcano that some people consider sacred.
Controversy over the telescope on Mauna Kea on Hawaii, the largest island in the chain, has raged for years. Some native Hawaiians have argued that the presence of the telescope will disrupt religious and cultural activities at the site, reported The New York Times.
The telescope is slated to be built by an international team of scientists from the United States, Japan, China, Canada and India. Known as the "Thirty Meter Telescope," or TMT Project, it could cost upward of $2 billion to construct.
The court ruled 4-1 that the presence of the telescope on the volcano won't interfere with native uses of the land. It noted that a study of the telescope site indicated there was no history of religious uses there, although such practices did take place on other parts of the volcano.
"Furthermore, in general, astronomy and Native Hawaiian uses on Mauna Kea have co-existed for many years and the TMT Project will not curtail or restrict Native Hawaiian uses," observed the court. "In addition, the TMT is an advanced world-class telescope designed to investigate and answer some of the most fundamental questions regarding our universe, including the formation of stars and galaxies after the Big Bang and how the universe evolved to its present form. Native Hawaiians will also be included in other direct benefits from the TMT."