University of Hawaii: No telescope means less research funds

HONOLULU — Losing the Thirty Meter Telescope could mean losing billions of dollars in research funding over the next few decades, a senior University of Hawaii official said.

Vassilis Syrmos, the school’s vice president for research and innovation, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser not building the advanced telescope on the summit of Mauna Kea on Hawaii’s Big Island could impair the school’s ability to attract research dollars.

Some Native Hawaiians oppose building the observatory on Mauna Kea because they believe its summit is sacred. Protesters have been blocking the road to the summit since mid-July to prevent construction from getting under way.

The university was expecting to be in a good position to receive billions for TMT-related astronomy research and instrumentation development from the National Science Foundation but the funding will go elsewhere if the telescope isn’t built in Hawaii, Syrmos said.

The university’s Institute for Astronomy is among the top three programs at the school in terms of the amount of research dollars generated.

Overall, the university brought in $430 million in research money this year, a 10% increase over the previous year. Syrmos said he’s working to move that number closer to a half-billion in the next three to four years.

But it may not be possible without the TMT.

“Right now our reputation is excellent,” Syrmos said. “We’re going to be good enough in astronomy for years to come without the Thirty Meter Telescope. But we’re not going to be a center of excellence like we are now. We need to push the needle for our science and research. And the TMT is the opportunity.”

An international consortium of universities and national observatories is spearheading the telescope project. It has spent the past decade winning the necessary permits from the state of Hawaii to build the $1.4 billion observatory.

The University of Hawaii will receive at least 7.5% of the observation time on the telescope if it’s built on Mauna Kea, one of the world’s best spots for viewing the skies.

The Thirty Meter Telescope is one of three next-generation extremely large telescopes planned around the world. The other two are being built in Chile. TMT has said it will build in Spain’s Canary Islands if it’s unable to build in Hawaii.

  1. Charlie Chimknee September 11, 2019 7:02 am Reply

    Aloha Kakou,

    After all these years, all those telescopes, all those old buildings still standing, all the hundreds of millions in research…and for what…?

    A bunch of outer space hobby enthusiasts looking at dots in the sky”zillions” of miles away, and no matter how big the telescope is, still the pictures still show countless white dots in the sky, OK, so what, some have different colors.

    In all these years, have they seen a single space ship, a single creature roaming around any distant planets, much less a town, or city, a civilization of monkey or man…?

    In all these years what have we the people who are paying for all this seen, computer graphics of places like the Milky Way…? Saturn with rings…Big Deal…! Rainbows are more aweome and they are re right here.

    The further we go in outer space the further we get from reality on earth.

    What did it take in money and lost lives to go,to the Moon, and all we got was a couple of Moon Rocks, and knowledge that the moon is uninhabitable for the average person not on artificial life support.

    Compared to what we have done on earth, going across the intergalactic skies even if we found life out there for sure we’d have to killl it or them.

    Just crossing the Pacific and Atlantic and Indian Oceans all we actually have done is kill millions of people who were different than us, different Gods, beliefs, cultures,:food, costume, music, if any, and different governments. Yeah we better kill,them and make them like us all same boring same.

    America: Kill em All, let our God. Sort em out…! Making America Great Again is dropping bombs on innocent women and children…and hard working guys too, eeking out a living on land somewhat less inhospitable than the Moon.

    From Korea, to Vietnam, to Afghaqawakistan, what have we done…death, defoliation, dementia in our own troops and suicide. Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do…!

    Clearly after all these years what’s to be found in outer space is in the next Universe over, or 3 or 4 over…when will we see something of interest that’s any different than National Geographic…?

    In the meantime look how many local people in Hawaii alone can he housed, educated, and fed, and prepared for a quality of life on earth in Hawaii Nei, compared to some outer space hobbyist, that will,never get enough, it is the universe they are exploring after all. Then Universe belongs to God, leave it alone and let’s take care of earth first, the aina God blesses us with.

    Bring the money home and use it for benevolent purposes for the people of the aina…they deserve no less.

    And next time we cross the oceans let’s bring music, food, education, health, and smiles, and forget about bombs, bullets, and hate.; and outer space…it’s just there to look at on clear nights.

    The Polynesian Explorers past and present have showed us what the stars are for, they are there to help us get “around the block” on this beautiful Blue Planet.

    Global Warming is an effect, the CAUSE is pollution and that pollution is caused by petrochemicals polluting the Air, Water, Land, and the very People, ourselves, poisoned by chemicals from petroleum and coal turned into poison chemicals, whether it comes out of your vehicles exhaust, a prescription bottle, factory smokestacks, the Agricultural Poisons on the west side (of the whole,world), and your. mouth’s end of an E-cigarette, whose flavors are cancer causing petrochemicals.

    Outer Space deserves to be confined to video games.

    Mahalo, thanks for reading.

  2. Vicky September 13, 2019 11:29 am Reply

    I don’t understand what’s the big deal, there’s 13 telescopes up there now, why only now the Hawaii’s blocking the road?? What about TMT money that they invested for those 13 telescopes?? If they can’t go up to put more they need to go up to take it down!!! Duh! Damn if they don’t damn if they do! Sacred land? Why only now ??

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