Thursday, June 18, 2009

STUNNING SHIFT IN HAWAII’S ASTRONOMY

The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) review meeting in Hilo last night for the Thirty Millimeter Telescope (TMT), being proposed for Mauna Kea’s summit, disclosed for the first time the benefits the Big Island community will receive by hosting the new observatory.

Unlike the other observatories on the Big Island, TMT corporation based in Pasadena, California, is offering Hawaii County the same compensation that will be given to Chile if the telescope is sited there. Chile gets about $1 million a year for each major telescope and numorous scholarships from each University involved. Not surprisingly, Astronomy and the observatories are very popular in Chile. If the seven observatories currently on the island each matched the packages that Chile receives for similar sites, as TMT is proposing they will do, we think Astronomy would become very popular in Hawaii County.
For those that have attended the seemingly endless public meetings on the TMT and Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP) in cramped school rooms, suffering through presentations by contractors and UH employees, the meeting last night was a sharp and stunning contrast.

First, there was a free dinner. Food is a big deal in Hawaii and it was high quality food in large supply.


Second, Mayor Billy Kenoi was there, the first time I have seen an elected official representing the public at any of the meetings. And his remarks were the first I have heard focusing on what the community will get, what our kids will get, and not about what some select international astronomers and UH will get or what we won’t get if the observatories are shut down. This type of frank discussion about what’s in it for the community combined with TMT’s offering of a tangible benefit package to the community is long overdue.

After Mayor Kenoi was done speaking, he sat down and had a dialog with Kealoha Pisciotta one of the strongest anti-telescope activists on the island. Over the years, Kealoha Pisciotta has delivered compelling attacks on Telescopes and UH’s CMP citing their legal infractions, environmental issues, and lack of respect for the mountain. She won a case, with many other plaintiffs including the Sierra Club regarding the management of Mauna Kea where the court ruled against UH and the State Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) for violations of the regulations protecting Mauna Kea as a conservation district. It was wonderful to see Mayor Kenoi taking the time to meet with her and have a discussion about the issue.



Before attending the meeting, I was on the fence about the TMT. I had gotten the shiny pamphlets and heard the marketing spiel about how a bigger, high-tech telescope would take “us” on a journey of discovery. Though I like the science, there were issues with the telescope that I found disturbing.








But after talking with Dr. Michael Bolte, Director of University of California Observatories and a member of the board of directors of TMT and Dr. Anneila Sargent, Professor of Astronomy at Caltech, I joined the “Yes TMT” camp.



They gave me the two key answers I needed to hear which were: 1) TMT Corp will give Hawaii County the compensation package that Chile would get if they were there 2) TMT Corp respects the law and fully intends to comply with all State and Federal laws. These are not the answers I always hear from Astronomers. After seeing the benefits that the community is going to get, I am convinced the facility makes sense to be on the island.



Here is the summary of the benefits to the community:
- An actual EIS has been performed and is getting public review following State law.
- Construction would start in 2011 and take approximately 7 years to complete. Construction would take place 6 days a week, 10 hours a day. An average of 2 trucks a day would bring components up to the summit and a concrete plant would be operated at the mid-level.
- The TMT will consist of the observatory on Mauna Kea on one of two proposed sites (roughly 6 acres), roadway and utilities to the observatory, improvements to Hale Pohaku – the mid-level facility for construction workers, a Headquarters facility at University Park in Hilo, and a satellite office in Waimea.
- The project is expected to employ 140 people full-time, 50 people would work up at the observatory daily. Carpools will be used to minimize vehicle trips to the summit.
- The TMT will create a community outreach office with at least one full-time person dedicated to managing a workforce pipeline program that would work with UHH and the DOE to train students for future TMT jobs and fill TMT operations positions locally to the greatest extent possible.
- The TMT will give $1 million annually to the community to be used for locally-chosen and managed education programs.
- The TMT will fund college scholarships.





5 comments:

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Anonymous said...

Another well thought out post. The benefits to Hawaii for this project far outweigh the minimal environmental impact it will have. Other than a couple of types of insects, there's nothing living up there.

Giving Hawaii a chance to become a true astronomy research center would provide so many benefits from education, jobs, spillover tourism, etc. This one needs to be built here, not in Chile.

nyminus@yahoo.com said...

The day is over where the rational by the moralistic few who held many people in it's grip through law. We see that The State of California is trying to get marajauna legalized. the rational is that it is too expensive to allow a relative few to dictate the laws of our nation where the cost of enforcing these laws is bore by the American tax payer.

The same is true of astronomy. The late spokesman, Francois Sagan spoke a lot of gibberish and showed a lot of pretty pictures of outer space that don't hold a titties on a bore hog's worth of real value. The only positive thing to come out of exploration of deep space is that it's good for the writing of science fiction stories.

Does the cost justify what is happening today? Look at it with a view of the cost versus value. What value to the human race is the results of astronomy. Does it chart road maps of places that man will one day go?No.

Man does not have a faster than light technology much less any technology that will allow him to exceed the maximum speed of object within the solar system. At that rate it would take man something like thousand of years just to go to our nearest neighbor, Alpha Centuri.

What astronomy is good for as far as value to the world is the tracking of objects that would wreck havoc and possibly end life on earth much as happened when a large meteor feel off the coast of Yucatan million of years ago but this is well taken care by amature astronomers who receive no money what so ever.

Before that could be beneficial to the earth an effort would have to be made to make the world leaders change their attitude toward meeting these threats and blasting them to kingdom come, and that even seems far fetched in light of Americas restrictions on nuclear weapons capable of doing the job. That seems far fetched today as people are more concerned with who will win the super bowl rather that saving our ass.

The term for an astronomer is Astro Physist. Now that's a real fine term capable of invoking awes and gasps when someone says that he or she is one. It's another case of PHD, you know not the degree that most are but a term that means piled higher and deeper. Isn't that the case. If someone can truthfully tell me differently then we will debate the issue. Notify me nyminus@yahoo.com. Most astronomers receive a hefty salary as opposed to the farmer who does supply a real need for food yet gets a lot less that the useless titties on a boar hog astronomers who only glorify them selves in astronomical publications and endlessly write, in jargon that us commoners can't understand about the concept of whether of not star # so and so had a methane and helium atmosphere or an atmosphere made up of some substance that we couldn't even come close to breathing. And this is all about places that are meaningless to human welfare.

Take for example in an astronomer discovered that an explosion in galaxiy xxzy would cause our world to be enveloped by the explosion in two thousand years, could we prevent it. Where the hell would we escape to given a two thousand year head start. Oh...you say that we would figure it out. Hey how about we would take only the best minds. The brightest people. I would bet that astronomers would be high on the list. They would convince us regular people that they had to be saved. Look at the way they have bamboozled us of their worth to justify the putting up a telescope on sacred land, Mona Kea crater.

No the time to get rid of these free loaders is now. Replace them with farmers. Give the farmers the money that is now given to the astronomers. There is no way that the telescopes does not operate on tax payer money. Does a business pay the astronomers money to map a certain area of space..No it is a charitable organization and it's time the charity has run it's course. If any one wishes to agues with me then write nyminus@yahoo.com...yall hear that Nadine Manset

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