The $1.4 billion TMT International Observatory is slated for construction in Hawaii, atop the dormant volcano Mauna Kea. But the project has seen a number of delays, largely related to protests from native Hawaiians who view the site as sacred, as well as environmentalists.
While construction is likely to move forward, the board of governors of the TMT International Observatory (TIO) have sought out an alternative location. A statement released by the board on Monday indicates it may have found one.
"The TMT International Observatory (TIO) Board of Governors has explored a number of alternative sites for TM. Every site we considered would enable TMT’s core science programs,” Henry Yang," chairman of the board, said in the statement.
"After careful deliberation, the Board of Governors has identified Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos (ORM) on La Palma in the Canary Islands, Spain as the primary alternative to Hawaii."
Once constructed, the Thirty Meter Telescope promises to be "the world’s most advanced and capable ground-based optical, near-infrared and mid-infrared observatory," according to the project’s website.
"We just want a mountain to start building on," Christophe Dumas, a scientist with the TIO told Nature.
The board had previously considered the Indian town of Hanle as a potential alternative, but that became increasingly unlikely.
"Hanle site has lower seeing values of 0.9-1.2 arc sec as compared to the alternate sites in Chile and Canary Islands of Spain, which have seeing values of 0.55 arc sec," Y.S. Chowdary, Indian Minister of State for Science and Technology, told parliament in August.
"Thus, scientifically, Hanle has less advantageous characteristics for hosting a mega telescope like the TMT in comparison to the other alternate sites."
Monday’s statement stressed even with the Canary Islands declared a backup, the project will likely move forward in Hawaii.
"Maunakea continues to be the preferred choice for the location of the Thirty Meter Telescope, and the TIO Board will continue intensive efforts to gain approval for TMT in Hawaii," Yang said.
"TIO is very grateful to all of our supporters and friends throughout Hawaii, and we deeply appreciate their continued support."