When the starlight from billions of years ago zips across the universe and eventually comes into focus on Earth, astronomers need their telescopes to be in the very best locations possible to see what’s out there.
Regardless of years of legal battles and months of protests by Native Hawaiian opponents, the worldwide coalition that wishes to build the world’s largest telescope in Hawaii insists that the islands’ highest peak — Mauna Kea — is the perfect place for their $1.4 billion instruments.
Thirty Meter Telescope officials acknowledge that their backup site atop a peak on the Spanish Canary island of La Palma is a comparable observatory location and that it would not cost more money or take additional time to build it there.
There’s additionally no significant opposition in placing the telescope on La Palma like there is in Hawaii, where some Native Hawaiians contemplate the mountain sacred and have blocked vehicles from hauling construction tools to Mauna Kea’s summit for more than a month.
However, Hawaii has benefits that scientists say make it slightly better: higher altitude, cooler temperatures, and rare star-gazing moments that may permit the cutting-edge telescope to achieve its full potential.
Now and then at Mauna Kea, you get one of those magical nights, mentioned Michael Bolte, a Thirty Meter Telescope board member. When the air is stable above the location, you get pictures that you could not get anyplace else.
Bolte, who has used existing Mauna Kea telescopes, mentioned those “magic” Hawaii nights might hold discoveries that couldn’t be missed in La Palma.
The advanced optics and huge size of the Thirty Meter Telescope, especially if built at Mauna Kea’s larger altitude, might enable scientists to more easily detect probably life-filled planets, Bolte stated.
To see distant planets close to bright stars, astronomers use telescopes to capture the infrared light that emanates from the area objects.
However, John Mather, an astrophysicist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2006 for his work on the Big Bang theory, says there are other methods to get that data.
Mather, the senior project scientist for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, deliberate for launch into space in 2021, stated the brand new instrument would probably be extraordinarily effective at gathering infrared light. The atmosphere won’t get in the way in which of the telescope’s imaging capabilities because it won’t be on Earth.