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In 2002 the Office of Hawaiian Affairs filed a lawsuit against the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to force NASA to produce an environmental impact statement for its proposed Keck outrigger project. This webpage includes newspaper articles reporting on the lawsuit and NASA’s agreement to produce an EIS, activists’ announcements regarding the EIS hearings, newspaper reports on the hearings, and newspaper reports about the ongoing scientific breakthroughs achieved by astronomers using the telescopes on Mauna Kea even while the EIS process is underway.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Tuesday, April 23, 2002


OHA sues for environmental report on Mauna Kea project

By Pat Omandam

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs has filed a federal lawsuit against the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to force an environmental impact statement before it can go ahead with a project on Mauna Kea. The lawsuit, filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Honolulu against NASA and the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy, seeks an order to compel NASA to assess environmental impacts on cultural and natural resources resulting from NASA's plans to fund and construct four to six outrigger telescopes at the existing W.M. Keck Observatory. These proposed 6-foot "outrigger" telescopes would work with the 33-foot primary Keck telescopes in a $45 million project aimed at looking for life on planets outside our solar system. NASA and UH officials could not be reached for comment late yesterday. NASA has been consulting with native Hawaiian groups over the development, as required by the National Historic Preservation Act. OHA Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona, in a statement yesterday, said she was disappointed at NASA's refusal to complete an environmental impact statement. The agency recently published a final environmental assessment that found the outrigger project would have no significant impact on Mauna Kea. "The native Hawaiian community has clearly spoken on the issue of Mauna Kea," Apoliona said. "It is one of our most sacred cultural resources. The community has repeatedly told NASA that its project will have very damaging effects on this treasured resource, but NASA has simply ignored us." Apoliona said NASA's erroneous assessment of the area is being used by the Institute for Astronomy, forcing the Hawaiian agency to seek legal action for a full environmental impact statement. Earlier this year, former OHA Chairman Clayton Hee proposed NASA pay Hawaiians $20 million in endowments for using the Mauna Kea telescopes.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Thursday, July 17, 2003, EXCERPTS


Mauna Kea telescopes hit roadblock

By Leila Fujimori

A federal judge has ruled that NASA must redo its environmental assessment to erect more telescopes around the two existing Keck telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea. U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway said Tuesday that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's environmental assessment failed to adequately analyze the cumulative impact of the development of the four to six telescopes on the site. ... The state Office of Hawaiian Affairs had alleged that NASA and the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy violated the National Historic Preservation Act and the Hawaii Environmental Policy Act, and asked the court to require them to prepare an environmental impact statement. The proposed telescopes are three-story-high domes with underground light tunnels and would be attached to the existing W.M. Keck Observatory, which has two 111-foot-high telescopes on the Puu Hauoki cinder cone. The telescopes have already been built in Australia, OHA attorney Lea Hong said. NASA is funding the $50 million project, and the university as administrator of the summit is the applicant for state Land Board approval. OHA had argued that Mauna Kea had cultural and religious significance for native Hawaiians, who consider it home to deities and as an ancient and modern burial ground and that NASA had ignored their concerns by its disposal of sewage at the site. OHA contends more than 48,000 gallons of sewage a month are disposed of on the summit. In her order, Mollway did not address the adequacy of NASA's response to the sewage concerns, since she said it may change after doing a more thorough analysis. ... "The university remains convinced that spiritual, cultural and environmental values can be integrated with scientific endeavors for the benefit of all," said Robert McLaren, associate director of the UH Institute for Astronomy. The ruling comes as the Sierra Club and native Hawaiian groups wait for a decision from the state Board of Land & Natural Resources in a contested case on a conservation permit for the project. The project had received a recommendation for approval, but a Land Board hearing officer denied approval of the state's three-page management plan and recommended the university prepare an adequate management plan. "This federal court case could knock the state permitting process off the tracks, and I think that's beginning to happen," Ho said. The judge also said the environmental assessment failed to quantify the amount of traffic and dust that would be generated by NASA's activities, nor did it describe the scope of the expansion. "Overall, I think it's an important victory, not just for OHA and native Hawaiian organizations, but it is an important decision in terms of informing federal agencies they need to do appropriate cumulative impact analysis in environmental assessments," said OHA attorney Lea Hong.

The Honolulu Advertiser, Tuesday, November 4, 2003, breaking news


NASA to prepare impact statement for Mauna Kea telescope project

By Kevin Dayton and Vicki Viotti

HILO, Hawai'i — After more than a year of legal wrangling, NASA officials announced today that they will begin work next month on an environmental impact statement for the outrigger telescope project at the W.M. Keck Observatory. The announcement was made jointly with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which had challenged a less-comprehensive NASA study, an environmental assessment, in federal court. Officials estimated that the study could cost as much as $1 million. No comprehensive federal impact statement has ever been prepared to assess the overall cultural and environmental impacts of astronomy on Mauna Kea, and critics of development on the mountain say one is long overdue. Ken Kumor, NASA’s federal preservation officer who also monitors the agency’s compliance with environmental law, said the EIS process will begin with public meetings in December and January. NASA aims to complete a draft statement in late May or early June and to finish the final document by fall, Kumor said, but those deadlines can extend if needed to "get this EIS right." Haunani Apoliona, who chairs the OHA Board of Trustees, praised NASA for going beyond the July court order for revisions in the environmental assessment, which federal Judge Susan Oki Mollway ruled was flawed. Mollway did not compel the agency to do a full EIS. "We welcome NASA’s commitment to this process as a positive step, and see this as a demonstration of good faith by NASA in building trust and in fulfilling its obligations as stewards of this sacred site," Apoliona said. Carl Pilcher, NASA’s program scientist on the project, said the agency decided to move ahead with an impact statement now to fulfill community desires for one. Also, he said, Mollway had ordered NASA to look at cumulative impacts from the project, and that analysis might tell the agency that a full impact statement is needed, anyway. The 13,796-foot mountain is considered sacred by some Hawaiians. The University of Hawai'i began developing the summit of Mauna Kea for astronomy in the 1960s, and now there are 13 observatories there operated by 11 countries.

The announcement, expected this morning in a news conference at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, in Honolulu is a significant concession by NASA, which is paying for the $50 million Keck outrigger project. The project would allow astronomers to add up to six 6-foot telescopes around the Keck Observatory. The new telescopes are expected to enhance the images taken by the Keck, which is the largest optical/infrared telescope in the world. The outrigger telescopes are a major part of NASA’s Origins Program to study how stars and planetary systems form, and whether habitable planets exist around nearby stars.

Among those witnessing today’s announcement was Kealoha Pisciotta, president of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, an organization that has opposed the observatory expansion. The group’s chief concerns about the project have been its potential damage to the mountain’s water supply, its impact on any area burial sites and on whether it would interfere with various Hawaiian cultural practices. The group participated in a contested-case proceeding in Hilo this year to try to block the state permit for the project. Its position has been to oppose any new installations on Mauna Kea, Pisciotta said, "but at a minimum, we could go for recycling of existing sites ... we don’t want any more of the area leveled." Pisciotta said Native Hawaiians use water from Lake Waiau on the mountain for medicinal purposes, conduct navigational rites before canoe voyages and hold ceremonies marking solstices and equinoxes. Changing the topography can interfere with these practices and is seen as disrespectful to Poliahu, the snow goddess whom the mountain represents, she said. Rolf-Peter Kudritzki, director of the U.H. Institute for Astronomy, said today that the astronomers stationed at Mauna Kea have "a deep respect for the cultural significance of the mountain" and accommodate them whenever possible. Kudritzki acknowledged that conflicts remain over the project but added that he’s heartened by what he described as "a very constructive step forward" enabling a dialogue between NASA and the Hawaiian community.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Monday, January 5, 2004


Far galactic aging stuns Mauna Kea researchers

Astronomers see the early universe mature sooner than expected

By Rod Thompson

HILO >> Astronomers using the Gemini North telescope on Mauna Kea have discovered evidence that the early universe matured much more quickly than previously thought. In distant areas where they expected to find small, youthful galaxies acting like "firecrackers," they found large, mature galaxies glowing with moderate amounts of light, said Gemini Associate Director Jean-Rene Roy. Astronomers are not yet sure whether the findings will require a major overhaul of their theories about the early universe. "It is unclear if we need to tweak the existing models or develop a new one in order to understand this finding," said Patrick McCarthy, of the Carnegie Institution, one of three principal astronomers who worked on the project. The findings of the team, whose project was called the Gemini Deep Deep Survey, were released today at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Atlanta. The farther away from Earth astronomers look, the older the light of galaxies is, compared with the present, but the younger it is compared with the beginning of the universe in a big bang, thought to have taken place 13.7 billion years ago. The Gemini Deep Deep Survey looked at four areas of the sky determined to hold galaxies as they looked 3 billion to 6 billion years after the big bang. Because of their movement away from Earth, the light of such galaxies is "shifted" and becomes strongly reddish. Astronomers call the area the Redshift Desert not because it is empty, but because it is hard to separate the reddish glow of the galaxies from the faint, nighttime glow of Earth's atmosphere. Other astronomers had gotten around the problem by looking at galaxies that co-principal astronomer Roberto Abraham, of the University of Toronto, called "flashy" because of star formation, the same ones Roy called "firecrackers." The Gemini team, using a special technique to look into the Redshift Desert, discovered that the majority of galaxies there are not "flashy," but also that they are large, indicating they grew to maturity at an early age. "These highly developed galaxies, whose star-forming youth is in fact long gone, just shouldn't be there, but are," said Karl Glazebrook, of Johns Hopkins University, the third co-principal astronomer on the team. Carnegie's McCarthy summed up the meaning of the discovery: "Obviously there are some major aspects about the early lives of galaxies that we just don't understand."

West Hawaii Today (Kona, Big Island) Wednesday, January 07, 2004


Strange supernova spotted in a double star system

A team of astronomers has discovered a famous supernova came from a binary system of stars orbiting around each other. The team of European astronomers joined by the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy, announced today they have found the cause of the strange nature of second brightest supernova ever seen in modern times, SN 1993J in the spiral galaxy M81. Supernova explosions are spectacular cosmic events, during which stars suddenly flash with such an enormous brightness they can be seen at large cosmic distances and can outshine all the other stars in their galaxy. Rolf Kudritzki, director of the Institute for Astronomy, said the SN 1993J first appeared rather ordinary but soon began to puzzle astronomers as instead of fading - as other supernova typically do - it showed a bizarre sharp increase in its brightness. In addition, as the spectroscopic analysis of its light showed, the ejecta from the explosion seemed far too rich in the element helium. From images of this galaxy taken before the explosion, a gigantic red supergiant star was identified as the source. In the history of astronomy, this was only the second time astronomers have seen the progenitor, or mother star of a supernova. But Kudritzki said the red supergiant could not alone have given rise to such a weird supernova, and astronomers suggested that the red supergiant orbited a companion which had shredded its outer layers just before the explosion. Using the giant Keck telescope on Mauna Kea and the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have peered deep into the 10 - year - old glowing remnants of the supernova. There they have found a massive star that must be the companion to the supernova. Kudritzki said this proves the strange supernova indeed occurred in a double star system. It also allows a detailed investigation of the stellar physics leading to supernova explosions. By observing the companion closely in the coming years it may be possible to observe a neutron star or black hole emerge from the remnants of the explosion. This discovery provides the first observational evidence that peculiar supernova of this type are due to very massive stars in binary systems. It allows to determine very precisely the physical properties of the two stars in the binary system. There have been more than 2,000 supernova discovered in galaxies beyond the Milky Way. In its collaboration, the team has embarked on a parallel project with the Hubble Space Telescope to image a large number of galaxies and wait patiently for a supernova to explode. "Supernova explosions are at the heart of our understanding of the evolution of galaxies and the formation of the chemical elements in the universe," said Stephen Smart of the University of Cambridge. "It is essential that we know what types of stars produce them." Kudritzki said scientists had long believed that SN 1993J had been caused by a binary system, and now they have been proven to be correct. "Sometimes in science it pays off to be patient," he said. The results of this research will be published in the international journal Nature.

Letter from KAHEA December 29, 2003

From: KAHEA Sent: Mon 12/29/2003 Subject: Input Needed:Mauna Kea EIS process begins

On December 23, NASA announced the start of its EIS process to determine the potential impacts of building up to 6 new telescopes on the sacred summit of Mauna Kea. Public scoping meetings begin January 5 in Kona. Mauna Kea is perhaps the most sacred site to Hawaiian people and also to people throughout Polynesia. Mauna Kea serves as the zenith of the Hawaiian people's ancestral connection to Creation and to the spirit of creation. It is a profoundly sacred place. For more information about Mauna Kea, please visit http://www.kahea.org/

"Scoping" provides the public with the opportunity to identify all of the issues that NASA must considered in the development of the EIS, including environmental, social, cultural, religious, economic or whatever you think should be addressed. The inopportune "holiday" rush job is not lost on any of us. We should formally request that the public be given more time to prepare for this very important process and that people on each Island (particulalry the Native Hawaiian community) are direclty encouraged to participate in the scoping process.

KAHEA will be providing talking points to Action Alert Network members in the next few days. Please make every effort to attend one of these meetings or at least respond with written comments. Also please forward and share this announcement to others to ensure that people know about these "fast track" meetings. The deadline for providing written comments is: February 16, 2004. KAHEA will be sending out an Action Alert to facilitate public commenting.

From Legal Notice: [dates,times,places for 5 EIS scoping hearings] All meetings begin with informal Open House (5:15-6:15). The formal meeting for public comments begins at 6:30 pm. NASA plans to have a Hawaiian language translator at each meeting. For those unable to participate, comments can be provided in writing or electronically. Please call NASA toll-free at 877-283-1977 with any questions.

Visit the web address below to tell your friends about this. http://actionnetwork.org/KAHEA/join-forward.html?domain=KAHEA&r=WdaySJ51-B1r

If you received this message from a friend, you can sign up for the KAHEA:The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance Center at: http://actionnetwork.org/KAHEA/join.html?r=WdaySJ51-B1rE

Talking points posted by KAHEA: http://actionnetwork.org/KAHEA/notice-description.tcl?newsletter_id=2158799

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Thursday, January 8, 2004


Telescope enterprise raises land concerns
Critics say Big Island environmental needs are being ignored

By Rod Thompson

HILO >> Life in the universe is important, but life on the Big Island is a more immediate concern, environmentalist Nelson Ho suggested to a NASA official last night. The occasion was a meeting held by Carl Pilcher, of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, regarding up to six relatively small "outrigger" telescopes proposed by NASA for construction around the two giant Keck telescopes at the top of Mauna Kea. NASA plans to write a detailed environmental impact statement on the proposed project. It held the meeting to get public views on the study. NASA has said the outriggers' studies would help answer the questions, Where do we come from? and Are we alone? Ho answered, "While it is important to know the origins of life in the universe, the science of biology has (as) a top priority the understanding and preservation of biodiversity here on planet Earth." Ho said the NASA impact statement should study the impact of new and previous telescope construction on the wekiu bug, a rare insect found only at the top of Mauna Kea. Analysis of "cumulative impact" is important because that is what U.S. District Judge Susan Mollway found was lacking in an earlier, relatively short environmental analysis of the outrigger project when she ruled last summer that the project needed further study. The cumulative effect of construction is also relevant because the area around the Keck telescopes was already bulldozed when they were built. The outriggers, in domes 35 feet high compared with the Kecks' 111-foot domes, will be built on unpaved areas now used for parking. Another critic was former Mauna Kea guide Tom Peek, who accused astronomers of ignoring federal environmental laws and damaging cultural sites for 30 years. "It's too late to expect a change of heart (from the public) about your project just because you've finally agreed to follow U.S. law," he told them. Telescope supporters were sparse among the roughly 50 attendees last night. Paula Helfrich, of the Hawaii Island Economic Development Board, repeated her group's support for the outriggers but also repeated the group's position that a detailed environmental impact statement is needed. The meetings are an early step in the study process, with more hearings to come after the study is drafted. Other meetings are scheduled for tonight at the Waimea YMCA, Monday at the Japanese Cultural Center in Honolulu and Tuesday at Waianae District Park. Doors open at 5:15 p.m. for all locations, and meetings start at 6:30 p.m.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Wednesday, January 28, 2004


Mauna Kea captures death of a supernova

By Rod Thompson

HILO >> Astronomers using the Gemini telescope on Mauna Kea and the Hubble Space Telescope have obtained rare "before" and "after" images of a giant star blowing apart, they announced this week. The death of the red "supergiant" in an explosive supernova was seen last year in a galaxy called M-74, a Gemini statement said. It was only the third time in the history of astronomy that detailed images of an area of the sky had been made beforehand which could be used for comparison with the supernova images. More than 2,000 supernovas have been seen outside the Milky Way galaxy, but the only two others with good "before" images were seen in 1987 and 1993, according to the European Space Agency. This latest one, called SN2003gd, proved something astronomers long suspected, that a "normal" red giant would end in an explosion. Before blowing up, SN2003gd had a diameter bigger than the orbit of Mars, Gemini said. A star as small as the Sun doesn't have enough mass to cause the collapse and rebounding explosion of a supernova, Gemini said. SN2003gd was first seen by amateur astronomer Robert Evans of New South Wales, Australia, using a back-yard telescope in June. The news reached astronomer Stephen Smartt at the University of Cambridge, England, who has led a team preparing for such an event by making images of hundreds of galaxies. "We've been searching for this sort of normal progenitor star on its deathbed for some time," Smartt said. Amateurs can do their own watch without a telescope, Gemini said. The star Betelgeuse in the shoulder of the constellation Orion is a red giant which might explode thousands of years from now or as soon as next week, the observatory said. The star that blew up in 1987 was a blue giant, Gemini said. The 1993 supernova was thought to be a red giant with a small companion. The University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy announced recently that it found the surviving companion last year using the Hubble telescope and one of the Keck telescopes on Mauna Kea.

Honolulu Advertiser, Thursday, February 5, 2004


UH find of two new Jupiter moons is confirmed

By Christie Wilson

Astronomers from the University of Hawai'i have announced the discovery of two new moons around Jupiter. During the past three years, a team led by UH astronomer David Jewitt and graduate student Scott Sheppard has identified 46 of the 63 known moons — also known as satellites — orbiting Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. The data was collected using the Canada-France-Hawai'i Telescope, the UH Reflecting Telescope and the Subaru Telescope, all atop Mauna Kea. The two newly identified moons were first observed last year, but the identification was just confirmed. They are among Jupiter's smallest satellites, at about 1.2 miles in diameter, Sheppard said yesterday. Its largest known satellite is about 100 miles in diameter. Sheppard said astronomers predict there may be as many as 100 satellites in regular and irregular orbits around Jupiter. The satellites fall into six distinct groupings, each produced from a much larger satellite that was broken apart in a collision with a passing comet or another satellite, he said. The capture of the satellites by Jupiter probably occurred in the very early solar system, and studying them is helping scientists understand how planets were formed, Sheppard said. Like almost all of the other satellites found in recent years, the newest discoveries are in retrograde orbits, meaning they orbit in the opposite direction of the planet's spin. For those keeping track, Mercury and Venus have no moons, Earth has one, Mars two, Saturn 31, Uranus 27, Neptune 13 and Pluto one. Jupiter is visible to stargazers this month. It rises in the east around 9 p.m. and is one of the brightest natural objects in the sky.

Notice from Kahea, February 7, 2004

Note from website editor Ken Conklin: The following notice was sent out on February 7, 2004, by Kahea, an environmental/Hawaiian sovereignty organization. It asks people to e-mail a form letter to Dr. Carl Pilcher, a decision-maker in the EIS process. The form letter automatically inserted the name of the e-mail account-holder, together with Dr. Pilcher’s name, making the letter very easy for thousands of people to send.

From : KAHEA Reply-To : notice-reply-x3sede22jjbnb8@actionnetwork.org Sent : Sunday, February 8, 2004 12:07 AM

Subject : Act Now to Protect Mauna Kea

Take Action Now to Protect Mauna Kea

Aloha {name of e-mail account recipient automatically inserted}


Send a letter to the following decision maker(s): Dr. Carl Pilcher

Below is the sample letter:

Subject: Prevent Further Degradation of Mauna Kea

Dear [decision maker name automatically inserted here],

Mauna Kea is A Public Trust and is Important to the People of Hawaii and the World
-Residents from each Main Island and Native Hawaiian people living in the continental U.S. are concerned about the future of Mauna Kea. At least half of the Native Hawaiian people reside outside their homeland. How will NASA ensure that all people in Hawaii and beyond are able to weigh in on this issue?

Cultural and Religious Considerations
-Mauna Kea is a sacred temple revered throughout Polynesia and is the burial ground of Native Hawaiians' most revered ancestors. -Native Hawaiian culture is a living culture. Mauna Kea is routinely used for religious ceremonies and other traditional and customary cultural practices. -The sacred healing waters on Mauna Kea are regularly used for cultural and religious purposes. -Access for public and the Native Hawaiian use must be maintained -There is no Burial Treatment Plan for the Mauna Kea Science Reserve (managed by UH). -NASA's EIS should include a Cultural Impact Statement by cultural and religious practitioners (pursuant to Hawaii state law) to assess the cumulative impacts that Astronomy has had on native Hawaiian practices on the mountain. This includes a formal and acceptable Section 106 consultation.

Mauna Kea is a unique ecosystem
-As a direct result of development and activities on Mauna Kea, the native Wekiu bug population has been drastically reduced. The Wekiu bug should be listed as an endangered species immediately. In addition, at least 17 other threatened and endangered species require specific protection and monitoring. -Mauna Kea is a National Natural Landmark and the summit region is also eligible to be listed in the National Historic Register.

Environmental Impacts and Cumulative Impacts
-Without a history or record of monitoring impacts on the environment or on cultural rights and resources from extensive activity, there is no baseline information, which is vital to determine the effects of a proposed activity. -NASA must consider and assess the cumulative effects of all activity that has taken place on this mountain, including past, present and reasonably foreseeable future astronomy facilities. -Mauna Kea is the principle Aquifer for Hawai`i Island. -Human waste and other effluents are released into septic tanks, which end up in porous volcanic soil. -The complex hydrology of Mauna Kea is not understood and has never been evaluated. -Observatories use numerous toxic materials, including elemental mercury and hazardous solvents.

Transportation, storage, use and disposal of hazardous toxic substances must be reviewed, monitored, and reported.
-The extent of soil contamination must be determined and cleaned up prior to any further activity on the mountain. -An independent team of hydrologists and toxicologists must monitor for toxic compounds and assess the effects of hazardous materials on the water quality of the lake, the aquifer and on the Wekiu bug. UH Must Withdraw its Permit Application to build in a conservation area -NASA and the UH Institute For Astronomy (UHIFA) should withdraw its permit for an exemption to the Conservation District Use Application until the EIS is complete. -Without the EIS conclusions, the State Board of Land and Natural Resources will be unable to determine the impacts to the natural and cultural resources of Mauna Kea. If NASA/UHIFA continue to act in bad faith, the state must deny the permit.

Economic Benefits of this Industry Must be Addressed
The economic benefits of this industry are not realized by the community or the state. -Observatories generate millions of dollars of revenue through patent leasing technology. UH receives 10-20% of the revenues from leasing observing time by the observatories. Meanwhile local residents bear the costs of management and maintenance of infrastructure.

Mahalo for the opportunity to comment.


{name of e-mail account recipient automatically inserted}

Excerpts from Keck website, February 15, 2004



Excerpts. Full article on Keck website includes stunning photos and additional information.

KAMUELA, Hawaii (February 15, 2004) A team of astronomers may have discovered the most distant galaxy in the universe. Located an estimated 13 billion light-years away, the object is being viewed at a time only 750 million years after the big bang, when the universe was barely 5 percent of its current age. The primeval galaxy was identified by combining the power of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and CARA's W. M. Keck Telescopes on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. These great observatories got a boost from the added magnification of a natural “cosmic gravitational lens” in space that further amplifies the brightness of the distant object. "We are looking at the first evidence of our ancestors on the evolutionary tree of the entire universe," said Dr. Frederic Chaffee, director of the W. M. Keck Observatory, home to the twin 10-meter Keck telescopes that confirmed the discovery. "Telescopes are virtual time machines, allowing our astronomers to look back to the early history of the cosmos, and these marvelous observations are of the earliest time yet." The newly discovered galaxy is likely to be a young galaxy shining during the end of the so-called "Dark Ages" -- the period in cosmic history which ended with the first galaxies and quasars transforming opaque, molecular hydrogen into the transparent, ionized universe we see today. "The properties of this distant source are very exciting because, if verified by further study, they could represent the hallmark of a truly young stellar system, that ended the Dark Ages,” added Dr. Richard Ellis, Steele Professor of Astronomy at Caltech, and a co-author in the article. The team is encouraged by the success of their technique and plans to continue the search for more examples by looking through other cosmic lenses in the sky. The Caltech team reporting on the discovery consists of Drs. Jean-Paul Kneib, Richard S. Ellis, Michael R. Santos and Johan Richard. Drs. Kneib and Richard also serve the Observatoire Midi-Pyrenees of Toulouse, France. Dr. Santos also represents the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, UK. The W.M. Keck Observatory is operated by the California Association for Research in Astronomy, a scientific partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The Honolulu Advertiser, Friday, February 27, 2004


Discovery of star to give insight into planet origins

By Curtis Lum

Astronomers on Mauna Kea have discovered a young, planet-forming star that scientists hope will provide insight into the origins of our solar system. The star, AU Microscopium, is surrounded by a dust disk that is "indirect evidence" for newly formed planets, said Michael Liu, an astronomer at the University of Hawai'i Institute for Astronomy. Liu, along with the institute's Jonathan Williams, and the University of California at Berkeley's Paul Kalas and Brenda Matthews, made the discovery from the James Clerk Maxwell telescope on Mauna Kea. Liu said the AU Mic is 33 light years away and is the nearest star with a visible disk, which scientists believe is the material that forms planets. Up until this discovery, the closest visible dust disk was around Pictoris, a star about 65 light years from the Earth. A light year is the distance that light travels in one year at the rate of 186,282 miles per second. "We know that extra-solar planets are common, but understanding how they form is an outstanding question," Liu said. "Because AU Mic is so near to Earth, it provides us a special opportunity to examine planet formation in great detail." AU Mic has half the mass of the sun and is about 12 million years old. Liu said our sun is about 4.6 billion years old. "Unfortunately, we can't go back in time and observe our own solar system. But by studying these very young stars, we can examine how planets are forming around them, and thus indirectly learn about the origin of our own solar system," Liu said. He said images of disk around nearby stars are very rare. "Astronomers will be studying AU Mic for many years to come," Liu said.

June 24, 2004 Mauna Kea Documentary

In view of all the opposition to astronomy on Mauna Kea from Hawaiian sovereignty and environmental activists, the University of Hawai’i Institute for Astronomy apparently made a political decision to embark on a large public relations campain to inform the public, and to produce projects in close collaboration with ethnic Hawaiians. One result was an hour-long TV program broadcast on the Hawai’i affiliate of PBS. The program was beautifully produced, and focused on common interests shared by astronomers and ethnicHawaiians, including the concept of “first light” which was the title of the program. The TV program was broadcast on Thursday June 24. One week later the newspapers carried a story about how scientists and schoolchildren marked the blessing and dedication on June 30 of a construction project to build a $28 million Mauna Kea Astronomy Education Center in Hilo. Here are two newspaper articles about the TV show and the blessing/dedication of the building.

The Honolulu Advertiser, Thursday, June 24, 2004


Mauna Kea: Documentary examines culture, science

By Michael Tsai

'First Light'

A documentary about the dispute over astronomy at Mauna Kea

The new PBS Hawai'i documentary "First Light" takes its name from two concepts — one tied to Hawaiian culture, and one from modern technology. Traditional Hawaiian belief holds that dawn is a time of power. Mauna Kea, the highest point in Hawai'i, is therefore empowered by the first light to hit the Islands each day. "First light" is also a term used by astronomers to refer to the first time a telescope produces a discernable image. To whatever degree scientists may believe in portents, first light is said to foretell the future uses and value of the telescope. So "First Light" is a very appropriate title for an examination of Mauna Kea as a place of tremendous cultural significance to Native Hawaiians.

Legend says it is the meeting place of earth mother Papa and sky father Wakea, and it is arguably the most ideally situated spot for high-tech deep-space observation. Mauna Kea is also home to several rare and unique plant and animal species, and its fragile ecosystems have been subjected to devastating incursions. Consider that, and the issue of shared use and stewardship becomes even more complicated and tempestuous.

The documentary, however, suggests a third meaning for the "first light": the emergence of a new understanding between clashing interests, the illuminating of a middle path on which all concerned parties might travel. "The situation is so huge and so fragile," said producer Ed McNulty. "Everybody has a stake in it. There is a lot of passion on that mountain. "Some people view Mauna Kea as a temple," McNulty said. "It's also where some of the best science on the planet is being done. All of these kinds of superlatives are at play around this issue."

The tension between native practitioners who view the mountain as sacred, astronomers who value its importance in maximizing the potential of emerging technologies and environmentalists who wish to preserve it as a sanctuary for native life has been sometimes explosive. Arguments have heightened in recent years, exacerbated by proposals to build more telescopes around the W.M. Keck Observatory. In fact, McNulty said he is releasing the documentary ahead of schedule to help provide more context for ongoing debates. "The issue has become more public and even more important than before," he said. "These issues of culture and science are front and center not just in Hawai'i, but around the world."

'Continuum of identity'

Rather than try to survey all the issues and all the approaches at play, McNulty, writer/director Roland Yamamoto and photography director Ken Libby present cultural, scientific and conservationist concerns through people who have close personal or professional ties to the mountain. "What we wanted to do was represent each story with as much credibility as we could," McNulty said. "We wanted to make the cultural case, the environmental case, the scientific case." To do that, the creators tapped people committed to finding ways to reasonably accommodate the major demands being placed on the mountain.

The importance of Mauna Kea, historically and culturally, is explained by people like Larry Kimura, whose family has ritually delivered umbilical cords to the the summit area, maintaining a "continuum of identity ... of who we are and where we come from." Hawaiian priest Kimo Pihana is shown with his children, Moana and U'ilani, near the summit area practicing traditional rituals of service, respect and connection to the mountain. Also included: Ed Stevens, who has been visiting Mauna Kea for more than 40 years and who now chairs Kahu Ku Mauna, a panel of cultural resource experts that advises the board responsible for managing the summit area.

On the astronomy end, Keck Observatory director Fred Chaffee speaks eloquently about the value of the data collected by the telescopes and the reasons Mauna Kea, with its 13,796-foot summit towering high above a remote ocean expanse, is so uniquely suited for space observation. "We weren't looking for people who were acquiescing, but for those who had strong feelings and were working through the system and dealing with the issues in human terms, in a respectful way," McNulty said.

Keck telescopes

The film traces the history of Mauna Kea from its mythical Hawaiian origins; through the early 1960s, when the Big Island was reeling economically from a tidal wave and Mitsuo Akiyama, executive secretary for the Big Island Chamber of Commerce, solicited investment in the mountain; to the ongoing Hawaiian cultural renaissance, which has called all of the scientific development of the mountain into question. Along the way, it chronicles significant moments, such as when the University of Hawai'i received money in 1973 to build what was then the most powerful telescope in the world, and the construction of the Keck twin telescopes in the 1990s. It also documents the precarious fortunes of threatened or endangered species on the mountain, like the Mauna Kea silversword, a plant that was almost eaten into extinction by feral animals, and the palila, a Hawaiian honeycreeper.

McNulty said he expects criticism for the documentary's emphasis on collaborative efforts. "There are those on both sides who have strong feelings and who don't want any part of the other," McNulty said. "But there are also people who look at this in a practical sense and think about what kinds of compromises can be made. "These are large problems," McNulty said. "But if we can find a solution, it could be a model for the world."

The Honolulu Advertiser, Thursday, July 1, 2004


Astronomy facility blessed

By Kevin Dayton

HILO, Hawai'i — Scientists and schoolchildren marked the blessing and dedication of the $28 million Mauna Kea Astronomy Education Center yesterday with an array of cultural and scientific displays near the center's construction site in Hilo. The center is an attempt to create an exhibition and educational facility that uses Hawaiian culture to frame the scientific inquiry of astronomy, offering interpretive displays to showcase discoveries by the powerful collection of telescopes on Mauna Kea.

Construction on the 40,000-square-foot center began in April on a nine-acre site in the University of Hawai'i at Hilo's University Park of Science and Technology. The center is scheduled to open late next year. The center's futuristic design will include three gleaming, titanium-covered cones arranged on three sides of a 12,000-square-foot exhibit hall. One of the cones will house a multipurpose planetarium with a dome 53 feet in diameter. Another cone will serve as the center's entryway — with a gift shop — and the third cone will serve as a restaurant with a commanding view of Hilo Bay.

The dedication activities yesterday focused on the center's dual themes of Hawaiian culture and astronomy, with exhibits arranged around the park on everything from mirror grinding to the voyaging canoe Kea'eloa. Astronomy base facilities at the park and in Waimea also hosted open houses to mark the event.

"It has always been my hope that we create a place of lifelong learning where the wonders of astronomy and the power of Native Hawaiian cultural traditions will together inspire the next generation of scientists and astronomers from Hawai'i," said Sen. Dan Inouye, D-Hawai'i, who helped secure federal financing for the project that was provided through NASA.

Yesterday's ceremony included the first presentations of the Impact Awards honoring achievements related to astronomy in Hawai'i. Honored this year were the late Mitsuo Akiyama with the 2004 Economic Impact Award; Wil Kyselka with the 2004 Educational Impact Award; Dr. Walter Steiger with the 2004 Scientific Impact Award; and the late Clay Bertelmann with the 2004 Cultural Impact Award.

The Honolulu Advertiser, Tuesday, August 3, 2004


Report favorable to Mauna Kea telescope plan

By Timothy Hurley

A newly released draft environmental document says the construction and operation of NASA's proposed Outrigger Telescopes at the W.M. Keck Observatory will have little adverse effect on the Mauna Kea mountaintop. The draft environmental impact statement, released yesterday, describes a $50 million project that is unlikely to have any significant cultural or archaeological effects and might even improve the plight of the rare wekiu bug, which is found only on Mauna Kea.

But the leader of a group opposing the plan said yesterday that document is flawed by the use of old data and ignores the cumulative impacts of all of the projects atop Mauna Kea, which some Native Hawaiians consider sacred. "The mountain is already substantially impacted," said Kealoha Pisciotta, president of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou.

NASA wants to construct between four and six smaller telescopes next to the existing twin Keck telescopes in an array that would generate even sharper images and greater detail from the two most powerful optical telescopes in the world. Each outrigger telescope would be enclosed by a 35-foot-high dome and supported by underground concrete instrument rooms. Construction would occur on the Pu'u Hau'oki cinder cone that was previously disturbed for construction of the Keck telescopes. The visual impact of the new telescopes would be minimal, according to the document, because they would be dwarfed by the 121-foot-tall Keck domes.

The draft EIS includes a burial treatment plan that lays out procedures if any human remains are found, and the project will not restrict access of Native Hawaiians to the summit region. As for the wekiu bug, the draft EIS offers two formal plans that support a proposal to restore habitat to compensate for the loss of a .019-acre area to construction. The restored habitat would be three times larger than the lost area, and an entomologist would visit monthly to monitor the insects, which live in the volcanic cinders and feed on dead bugs that are preserved in the snow or immobilized by cold.

Opponents have argued the development would affect the area's hydrology and water quality, but the draft EIS contends there will be no impact. In particular, it says, percolating wastewater from the observatory site would not travel to Lake Waiau or to the springs on the west side of Pohakuloa Gulch, countering claims that those water bodies could be threatened.

The draft EIS concedes a "substantial and adverse" cumulative effect of all of the telescopes on Mauna Kea's cultural resources. But the addition of the outrigger telescopes would have only a "small incremental impact." Pisciotta said every new proposal is going to claim a small incremental impact. The problem, she said, is that the small impacts add up to substantial ones, as the document points out. "At some point there needs to be a limit," she said. "There needs to be a carrying capacity."

Pisciotta, a former telescope technician, said her group would be severely critical of the document's hydrology section, in part because of the use of what she called outdated data. "Cinder cone hydrology is complicated, and it's going to take more than 20-year-old data and a few minute samples to figure out what's going on," she said. If the permit process goes as planned, construction would begin in 2005 and the new telescopes would start operating in 2007, the document said.


• Aug. 23 King Kamehameha Beach Hotel, Kailua, Kona.
• Aug. 25 Naniloa Hotel, 93 Banyan Drive, Hilo.
• Aug. 26 Waikoloa Beach Marriott, 69-275 Waikoloa Beach Drive.
• Aug. 30 Maui Arts & Cultural Center, One Cameron Way, Kahului
• Sept. 1 Wai'anae District Park, 85-601 Farrington Highway.
• Sept. 2 Japanese Cultural Center; 2554 S. Beretania St., Honolulu.

All meetings will begin with an informal open house from 5:45 to 6:15 p.m., with public comments at 6:15 p.m. Written comments must be received by NASA no later than Sept. 30, or 45 days after publication in the Federal Register of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of notice of availability of the Draft EIS for the Outrigger Telescopes Project, whichever date is later.

Send comments to Dr. Carl B. Pilcher; Office of Space Science, Code SZ; NASA Headquarters; 300 E Street, SW; Washington, DC 20546-0001; e-mail to otpeis@nasa.gov or fax (202) 358-3096.

Honolulu Advertiser, Friday, August 13, 2004


Star sheds light for astronomers

By Jan TenBruggencate

Astronomers have taken detailed images of a lumpy disk orbiting a nearby red star, and believe it may represent a blueprint for how our own solar system formed. University of Hawai'i Institute for Astronomy professor Michael Liu used the Keck II telescope atop Mauna Kea to take pictures of the disk around AU Microscopii, which astronomers have nicknamed AU Mic, pronounced mick or mike. The star, about half the mass of our own sun, is the closest star known to have such a disk. It is 33 million light years away, well within our galaxy and for astronomical purposes, "right within our neighborhood," Liu said.

While our own sun is about 4.6 billion years old, AU Mic is a youngster, just about 12 million years old and still in its planet-formation period. "By studying very young stars like AU Mic, we gain insight into the planet formation process as it is occurring. As a result, we learn about the birth of our own solar system and its planets," Liu said.

The images show a dust disk that extends outward from the sun, but does so in an irregular way, with fat places on the disk and thin ones. Since the star is so close to us and the telescope so powerful — it is the largest infrared telescope in the world — the images are the sharpest ever taken of such a stellar disk. "We can see features there that are intriguing to say the least," said Eugene Chiang, an astronomer at the University of California at Berkeley, who has reviewed Liu's work. The lumps "represent planets forming. That's my view," he said. Liu said the gravity of rocky planets within the dust disk would cause irregularities in the dust that show up in the telescope images. "We cannot yet directly image young planets around AU Mic, but they cannot completely hide from us either. They reveal themselves through their gravitational influence, forming patterns in the sea of dust grains orbiting the star," he said.

Chiang said it's also interesting that the lumps appear the same distance from AU Mic as some of our solar system's planets are from the Sun. They are found in the region where Neptune and Pluto are in our system—between 2 billion and 4 billion miles from the star. It is a phenomenon in astronomy that telescopes are sometimes able to pick out smaller particles and not bigger ones. In this case, AU Mic's reflected light off its dusk is visible, but the individual planets are not. In a way, it's similar to your being blinded by your headlights reflecting off the fog, but unable to see solid objects in the fog.

Liu said other scientists are working with the images to try to calculate the size of AU Mic's planets from the effects of their gravity on the dust disk. "We are entering a new age of high resolution imaging in astronomy. Dr. Liu's breathtaking images of possible planets in formation around AU Mic would have been unimaginable from any telescope — space-based or on Earth — a few short years ago," said Dr. Frederic H. Chaffee, director of the W. M. Keck Observatory.

The Honolulu Advertiser, Wednesday, August 18, 2004

On Wednesday August 18, 2004 the Honolulu Advertiser published a major article accompanied by stunning photographs, describing the telescopes on Mauna Kea and Haleakala, and what they are accomplishing. Ho'ohokukalani (the goddess who placed the stars in the heavens), who is the mother of the ancestor of all ethnic Hawaiians, must surely be proud that her descendants are using the mountain (mauna) of her father (Wakea) to appreciate and worship these majestic creations.


State shines in astronomy

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Science Writer

From the highest peaks on Hawai'i and Maui, astronomers seek out the vast mysteries of space.

Hawai'i boasts of having the best sites for astronomy in the world. They pinpoint asteroids that might threaten our planet, scan the fringes of the sun for clues to the origins of its magnetic storms, try to probe black holes and peer back in space-time to learn about how our universe was formed.

"We have looked back 12.8 million light years and seen galaxies quite a bit more mature than we expected. We've used adaptive optics to look into the center of our galaxy, where we seem to have a very nice specimen of a black hole," said Peter Michaud, of the Gemini Northern Telescope, one of the newest and biggest on Mauna Kea.

The Islands can thank tall mountains and a stable atmospheric inversion layer for an industry worth 600 jobs and $150 million a year — Hawai'i's astronomy program.

"The University of Hawai'i astronomy program is one of the absolutely best in the world, easily in the top five. And the reason is that the Institute for Astronomy has access to two of the best sites for astronomy in the world: Mauna Kea and Haleakala," said Rolf-Peter Kudritzki, director of the institute.

The clarity of the observation is possible because of the inversion layer, which is much more stable over a wide tropical ocean than over continents.

If you stand in the cold, rarefied air on either Hawai'i mountaintop, on most days you can look down through the crisp atmosphere and see the inversion layer as kind of a cloudy, dirty blanket layer below which nothing is quite as distinct.

Normally, air temperature cools as you go up, but in an inversion layer temperatures rise with increasing elevation, forming a barrier that prevents upward air movement.

"It traps pollutants and water vapor, and the atmosphere above that is much clearer," said Jim Weyman, head of the National Weather Service forecast office in Honolulu.

Both the Big Island's Mauna Kea and Maui's Haleakala pierce the inversion layer, which normally sits about 6,000 feet above sea level and is 1,000 to 2,000 feet thick. Mauna Kea reaches near 13,800 feet and Haleakala just exceeds 10,000 feet. Mauna Kea is taller, but a little dustier; Haleakala is lower but more dust-free.

"You get to see things with clarity that you don't see anywhere else in the world," said Jeff Kuhn, the Institute for Astronomy's associate director for Haleakala.

Other features also help make the sites so important for astronomy:

• There is comparatively little city light pollution.

• The proportion of cloud-free nights is among the highest in the world.

• Hawai'i's government and economy are stable. Infrastructure — including roads, electrical power and even hotel rooms — is in place. And, recognizing some of these things, the state in the 1960s decided to boost its role in astronomy, so that the world's best astronomers have the support of a world-class astronomy center.

The list of astronomical research directions at the Hawai'i observatories is nearly endless. Astronomers look into our own solar system, into our Milky Way galaxy, at nearby galaxies and far into the deepest space. They study the different things that are viewable at different wavelengths of light, and beyond light at radio and submillimeter wavelengths. They combine light from different telescopes to improve their imagery. They add instrument after instrument to the mirrors to improve their ability to resolve distant glowing specks. They use computers to characterize the disturbances in the atmosphere and correct for them.


Annual value of astronomy to Hawai'i's economy: $150 million.
Value of Mauna Kea observatories: $1 billion.
Employment in astronomy and related fields: 600 jobs.

Haleakala 10,023 feet,
Mauna Kea 13,796 feet.

Observatories on Mauna Kea: 13.

Observatories on Haleakala: 6.

Definition: Adaptive optics — systems used by telescopes to remove the blurring created by the Earth's atmosphere. It takes the "twinkle" out of stars, creating steady points of light.

Source: University of Hawai'i Institute for Astronomy. And in the process, they are creating new machines, new technology, new demands for improved machining and miniaturization.

"There is an enormous scientific investment in financial terms and all of it is high tech. Astronomy has a technological impact. Astronomy is a technology driver," Kudritzki said.

Astronomy is also a place where international boundaries blur. More than a dozen nations have investments on Mauna Kea alone, and scientists from even more nations participate.

"International collaboration. Many people talk about it, but astronomy practices it. We have well-established international partnerships," Kudritzki said.

If you ask the astronomy community to identify the "sexiest" or most important research projects, several come up repeatedly.

• Mysterious dark energy and dark matter, stuff we can't directly detect but know exists because of its effect on other things, makes up most of the mass and energy in the universe. But physicists and astronomers don't know what it's made of. "It's six-sevenths of everything, and we don't know what it is," said extragalactic observational astronomer John Tonry. "Most people think the dark matter is some kind of super-symmetrical particle we haven't detected yet."

• Our sun's magnetic storms can fry satellite electronics, cause massive power outages on Earth and last year got so strong that two satellites were lost, high-flying aircraft were urged to fly low and other flights were ordered to avoid regions where radio contact would be wiped out. "The magnetism of the sun is a critical issue," said astronomer Kuhn. Observatories on Haleakala are studying the sun to try to better predict and understand the interaction between the sun and the Earth.

• Black holes. Science used to think they were so enormously massive that their gravity sucked in everything, even light, and that anything sucked in was lost forever. Recently, Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking has argued that something may actually survive black holes, which may lead to a new round of research. Several Mauna Kea telescopes have been peering at the black hole in our own galaxy. It's up there in the night sky, in the constellation Sagittarius, about 24,000 light years away. But if you look, you won't see it.

• For many astronomers, the technology is the thing. Such as improving adaptive optics to get ever-clearer views. And the Gemini telescope's plan to replace the aluminum coating on its mirror with silver "because it reflects better in the infrared and absorbs less heat," Gemini's Michaud said.

To many, the future is even more interesting, like the proposed Pan-STARRS telescope (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System), which would completely inventory the sky visible from Hawai'i for near-Earth asteroids that could collide with our planet. It could go to either Mauna Kea or Haleakala.

"I hope we can convince the public that this is an important project, and it would be good for mankind," Kudritzki said.

Also on the drawing board are the largest solar telescope ever built, which would use adaptive optics to create images of the finest details of the sun's surface, and the largest telescope ever attempted, a 30-meter mirror that would allow direct viewing of planets orbiting distant stars.

The telescope would be a $1 billion project, equivalent to the value of everything now on Mauna Kea, Kudritzki said. His view is to put it on a plateau below the mountain's summit, where it would not be as visible as others from the lowlands, and would not interfere with Hawaiian cultural sites, summit cindercones or native high-elevation insect life.

Those issues are ones the astronomy community has been forced to take seriously in recent years, as it has run into a blockade of Native Hawaiians and environmentalists who challenged the view that astronomy is more important than culture and environment.

Mauna Kea summit's future is now guided by the 2000 Mauna Kea Science Reserve Master Plan, which calls for consultation with the local community. Kudritzki said he believes there is a way to preserve good astronomy while protecting the mountain.

"My vision of the future 30 years from now is that we we will have less telescopes than now, but they will still be the best in the world," he said.

• • •

• Photo Gallery: Click here to see photos: http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2004/Aug/18/ln/ln01a.html#Anchor-Photo-11481

This image of the central region of the Trifid Nebula (M20 in the Messier Catalogue) was by the Gemini North 8-meter Telescope on Mauna Kea on June 5, 2002. In the constellation of Sagittarius, the beautiful nebula is a much-photographed, dynamic cloud of gas and dust where stars are being born. One of the massive stars at the nebula’s center was born approximately 100,000 years ago. The nebula’s distance from the solar system remains in dispute, but it is generally agreed to be somewhere between 2,200 and 9,000 light years away.

Gemini Observatory This image of NGC 628 (M-74) was obtained by the 8.1-meter Gemini North Telescope on Mauna Kea, using the newly commissioned Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph. To make the color image, three images were combined to make this red, green and blue composite. The three images were obtained on the night of August 13-14, 2001.

Gemini Observatory Ultrawide view of the Gemini Northern Telescope with the side vents opened up, allowing views of the mountaintop. The UH telescope is seen at right.

Tourists brave the cold and thin air to view the spectacular sunset from the top of Mauna Kea, with the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope to the left. There are 13 observatories on Mauna Kea.

Inside the dome of the Gemini Northern Telescope, system support associates Avi Fhima and Gelys Trancho work at the consoles that control the telescopes’ position.

View from the top of Mauna Kea as the sun dips below the horizon. From left to right is the Subaru Telescope, twin W.M. Keck Observatory domes and NASA Infrared Telescope Facility.

The NASA Infrared Telescope Facility is on Mauna Kea. The top of Haleakala visible in the background, beyond the clouds. Hawai'i's tall mountains have helped foster an industry worth 600 jobs and $150 million a year.

• Mauna Kea telescopes (list of names, sizes, dates) http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/dailypix/2004/Aug/18/ln01chart_maunakea.gif

• Haleakala telescopes (list of names, sizes, dates) http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/dailypix/2004/Aug/18/ln01chart_haleakala.gif

West Hawaii Today, Sunday August 29, 2004, Letter to Editor


Ditch diggers -- or star gazers

The reactions to the proposed outrigger telescope on Mauna Kea portend a bleak future for science and high-technology industry on this island.

One would think from the vehemence unleashed by our usual cadre of activists that NASA was planning a strip mine or a strip mall.

Let's get one thing straight, the wekiu bug is a cockroach, a creature that will probably be around long after man is gone.

Also, the world's premier observatory site is not a pristine rainforest or popular sacred burial ground and the ancient Hawaiians did not hold Sunday services on the summit.

Many readers of this paper probably get the same feeling of excitement and pride I experience upon seeing a front page news story about the latest sensational discoveries made by our local astronomers. This is a world renowned, peaceful, minimal pollution industry that a handful of miscreants would like to destroy.

Contrast all the studies, meetings, and publicity impeding the planet's most advanced telescope with the massive fiber optic ditch project that ripped across West Hawaii seemingly overnight. How many burial sites were disturbed? How many native insects, birds or bats were displaced and how many rules and regs were overlooked so that O.H.A. could digest $400,000,000 in pork from Washington.

Now that a privileged few have high-speed Internet service at taxpayer's expense what are their children going to do for a living, the same old resort and military jobs that our politicians claim we must diversify away from?

This year out-sourcing is the election buzz word of a declining economy.

I'm sure if the Sierra Club and Mililani Trask have their way the government of Chile will be welcoming the next generation of astronomers with their telescopes in the quest to view the infinite.

Meanwhile our kids will continue to dig ditches.

Brian Lievens

The Honolulu Advertiser, Tuesday, August 31, 2004


Rival emerges for Mauna Kea telescope project

By Kevin Dayton

HILO, Hawai'i — NASA's proposed Outrigger Telescopes Project on Mauna Kea has long held out the promise of new jobs and millions of dollars a year in new spending on the Big Island. But suddenly the project doesn't look like a done deal.

Challenges to the project by Native Hawaiian interests and environmentalists have dragged on for years, and some observers now wonder if the controversy could undercut the reputation of Mauna Kea as a world-class place to do astronomy.

What is stirring alarm is a detailed evaluation of an alternate project site — Spain's Canary Islands — in the recently released draft environmental impact statement for the $50 million project.

Rick West, executive director of the Hawai'i Island Economic Development Board, said he was concerned to see serious discussion of the alternate site in the report, and that losing the project to the Canary Islands would be "a very negative development." "I think it would have strong repercussions in terms of any future upgrades and future astronomy development at Mauna Kea," he said.

NASA has been planning since 1998 to build up to six 6-foot outrigger telescopes around the W.M. Keck Observatory to expand its light-gathering capabilities. The Keck's twin 33-foot telescopes are the largest and most powerful optical telescopes in the world.

Critics of continued development on Mauna Kea say loss of the NASA project wouldn't mean the end of astronomy there by a long shot. The mountain has 13 observatories and more major telescopes than any other mountain peak in the world, and that won't change anytime soon, said Kealoha Pisciotta, president of the Mauna Kea Anaina Hou. "I really do not support the claim that astronomy would go away," she said. "We already are the world-class, premier astronomy site in the world. That objective was achieved, but at the expense of a lot of things."

The immediate economic impact from the loss of the outrigger project would be significant. Apart from construction spending, eight new full-time jobs would be created to staff the outriggers, and the new telescopes would increase the operating budget of the Keck Observatory by $5 million, to $7 million a year, according to the EIS. Also at stake is the development of future astronomy facilities. Astronomy operations on the Big Island provide almost 500 high-paying jobs and pump about $61 million annually into the local economy. According to a 1999 UH study, astronomy generates direct and indirect economic activity of about $131 million a year on the island, and $142 million for the state as a whole.

A new Thirty Meter Telescope, or TMT, is being evaluated by a National Science Foundation Working Group. It would be the largest and most powerful telescope ever built. Kudritzki has said there is a good chance Mauna Kea will be selected for the TMT project if it is clear the state wants it here. The UH Institute for Astronomy estimates the TMT project would double the existing revenue generated by all of the existing observatories combined, and nearly double the number of jobs. West of the Hawai'i Island Economic Development Board said he believes that if NASA gives up on Mauna Kea for the outrigger telescope project, that would "definitely" have ramifications for the TMT project.

While acknowledging that the cultural impact of astronomy development on Mauna Kea has been "substantial and adverse," the draft EIS prepared by NASA said the outrigger project itself would cause few additional problems. The report also lists mitigation measures to reduce potential effects of the new project.

Scientists familiar with the outrigger project said that despite discussion of the Canary Islands site, Mauna Kea clearly remains NASA's first choice. Carl Pilcher, the space agency's program executive and program scientist for the project, confirmed NASA still plans to put the outrigger telescopes on Mauna Kea. A measure of its commitment is the $2 million it was willing to spend to prepare the EIS.

Pilcher pointed out that the National Environmental Policy Act, the law that governs federal environmental impact statements, required that NASA look for viable alternatives to the Mauna Kea proposal. The agency did that, reviewing six other possibilities before focusing on the Canary Islands as a "reasonable alternative."

The report concluded that no groups consider that site sacred or of religious importance.

"Mauna Kea is clearly the best site from the standpoint of science," Pilcher said. The draft EIS noted the outriggers on Mauna Kea would be better able to see fainter objects and peer deeper into space than it would from any of the other potential sites.

Rolf-Peter Kudritzki, director of the University of Hawai'i's Institute for Astronomy, said it is no surprise NASA came up with a viable alternative to Mauna Kea because it is a legal requirement that the agency find and weigh alternatives for the EIS.

Comments by Paul M. Sullivan, September 30, 2004

On September 30, 2004 Honolulu attorney Paul M. Sullivan submitted “Comments on NASA's Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Outrigger Telescopes Project.” Mr. Sullivan analyzes some core concepts used in the DEIS, calling into question assertions that “Native Hawaiians” have special “cultural” rights over Mauna Kea based on “oral history” developed through interviews by a “cultural expert” who has a conflict of interest when serving as both an interpreter and information gatherer for NASA and also as an advocate for a local group opposing the NASA project. See: http://www.angelfire.com/hi5/bigfiles/SullivanHawnCultureMaunaKea.pdf

One of the references cited by Mr. Sullivan in his testimony refers to an article from “Honolulu Magazine” which describes the fact that the word “ohana” is a recent invention that did not exist until after 1950. The cultural concept it names has been cobbled together from ancient customs that varied widely from place to place. Today's concept was invented for political purposes. “'Ohana” is a buzzword, neither historically authentic nor descriptive of current practices. Mr. Sullivan cites that article as evidence that “Hawaiian culture” is a very slippery, nebulous term, referring to practices and concepts that are constantly changing; and thus “Hawaiian culture” or “traditional practices” should not be used in legal or scholarly documents such as the Mauna Kea Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The complete text of the Honolulu Magazine article about “ohana” can be seen at: http://www.angelfire.com/hi2/hawaiiansovereignty/ohana.html

Final Approval Granted, November 1, 2004

On November 1, 2004 it was announced that the Hawai'i Department of Land and Natural Resources has granted final approval to a permit to proceed with the outrigger telescope project.

Letter to Keck Newsletter Subscribers

From: "Laura Kraft"

Aloha Keck Newsletter Subscribers,

The University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy has been notified that the Conservation District Use Permit Application for the Outrigger Telescope Project has been GRANTED by the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), with many special conditions and requirements. The conditions will help ensure the physical and cultural environment on Mauna Kea is protected, in keeping with its importance both to astronomers and to Native Hawaiians.

There are still many steps that need to happen before the project can begin.

The first is that UH-IfA, NASA and CARA need to work closely with the Office of Mauna Kea Management to review all aspects of the Outrigger Project. The Office of Mauna Kea Management is given many responsibilities as a condition of permit approval. CARA will also work closely with the University of Hawaii to develop the CARA/UH agreement on operating the outriggers that must receive final approval from the UH Board of Regents before the project can move forward. The DLNR will need to review and approve all plans associated with the project, including a historical and educational plan and a comprehensive resource management plan. The DLNR will also closely monitor this project and take strict enforcement action if any violation is brought to light.

The DLNR also reserves the right to revoke the permit if the Federal EIS contains any new or contradictory information to what the DLNR already has. Finally, the Federal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process must be completed before NASA can release funds to construct the outriggers. The EIS decision is likely to be released by the end of February, and there is no money to begin the project until that process is complete. The earliest the project could break ground would be sometime in the spring of 2005.

Nevertheless, the approval of the permit application by DLNR is a major milestone not only for the project, but in the history of the W. M. Keck Observatory.

More information will become available in the following days from the DLNR and the UH Institute for Astronomy.

Laura K. Kraft
Public Information and Outreach Officer
California Association for Research in Astronomy
65-1120 Mamalahoa Hwy.
Kamuela, HI 96743
(808) 881-3827

The W. M. Keck Observatory is managed by the California Association for Research in Astronomy, a non-profit 501 (c) (3) corporation. Our vision is for all humankind to be inspired and united by the pursuit of knowledge of the infinite variety and richness of the Universe. We do this by advancing the frontiers of astronomy and sharing our discoveries with the world. www.keckobservatory.org

Honolulu Advertiser, breaking news, 12:02 p.m., Monday, November 1, 2004


NASA telescopes get state permit

By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Big Island Bureau

HILO, Hawai'i — A state panel has granted a critical permit to NASA's Outriggers telescopes project on Mauna Kea, allowing the project to move forward after more than two years of delays caused by legal and other challenges.

Environmentalists and Native Hawaiians criticized the state Department of Land and Natural Resources' decision Friday to grant the permit, with activist Kealoha Pisciotta calling it "Hawai'i's decision-making at its worst — closed sessions, ignored environmental studies and support for special interests over the public."

The conditional use permit is the last major state permit required for the project, although NASA still needs to complete its environmental impact statement. If the EIS is approved on schedule, construction on Outriggers would begin in 2005, and the new telescopes would begin operating in 2007.

Pisciotta, who is president of the cultural group Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, and Nelson Ho of the Sierra Club announced in a written statement that "litigation against the board now seems likely" because their concerns over the project have not been addressed.

The $50 million Outriggers project would put up to six new 6-foot telescopes around the existing W.M. Keck Observatory, which already boasts the largest and most powerful optical telescopes in the world.

Outriggers already has been the focus of a prolonged legal battle, and NASA disclosed earlier this year in its environmental impact statement for the Outriggers project that it has located an alternative site for the project in Spain's Canary Islands.

Critics at public hearings around the state urged NASA to take the project elsewhere, but astronomers and business leaders worry that losing the Outrigger project could hurt Hawai'i's reputation as a world leader in astronomy.

The 13,796-foot Mauna Kea is traditionally sacred for Hawaiians as the meeting place of the sky god Wakea and the earth mother Papa, who eventually became the parents of the first ancestor of the Hawaiian people. UH began developing Mauna Kea for astronomy in the 1960s, and the summit now has 13 observatories and more major telescopes than any other mountain peak.

As part of the effort to win approval for the Outriggers project on Mauna Kea, the University of Hawai'i's Institute for Astronomy applied to the state land board for a conditional use permit, which is required because the summit area of Mauna Kea is conservation land.

Critics of the project demanded a contested case hearing on the use permit in early 2002, and the hearing was held last year. Peter Young, chairman of the Board of Land and Natural Resources, signed the final decision approving the permit Friday.

Young said the contested case proceeding is different from a public meeting handled in open session, and there was no legal reason to make the final decision on the permit in public. He said the board decision is this case was handled the same way other decisions in other contested case hearings have been handled.

The board concluded that "with the conditions imposed, we can fulfill our duty to conserve, protect and preserve our important natural and cultural resources while letting the project go forward."

The board ruled the cumulative impacts of astronomy development on the mountain cannot be mitigated under the current management structure of the mountain. To improve the system, the board instructed the Office of Mauna Kea Management under the state Board of Regents to monitor the Outriggers project to ensure it complies with the requirements of the permit.

Critics of the project had urged the land board to postpone a decision on the use permit until NASA has completed an environmental impact statement on the Outriggers project, and were surprised that the board instead pressed ahead and issued a decision last week, said the Sierra Club's Ho. "I think astronomers panicked when NASA's draft EIS didn't support their assertion that the observatories had had no impact on the mountain," Ho said. "Now they're worried NASA, which is funding the Outriggers, may take them to the Canary Islands."

Young said that is not true. "Our interest, our focus, our attention was strictly on Mauna Kea," Young said.

Honolulu Advertiser, Thursday, December 2, 2004

Critics sue after panel OKs NASA project


By Kevin Dayton

HILO, Hawai'i — Critics of NASA's proposed "outrigger" telescopes are appealing a decision by the state land board to allow the $50 million project at the summit of Mauna Kea.

The state Board of Land and Natural Resources in October completed a contested-case hearing in connection with the project, voting to approve a state conditional use permit for construction of up to six smaller telescopes around the W.M. Keck Observatory. The observatory already houses the largest and most powerful optical telescopes in the world.

Opponents of the project filed a lawsuit in Hilo Circuit Court Tuesday, alleging the project would exceed the limit of 13 telescopes allowed on the mountain in the management plan approved by the land board. The summit already has 13 observatories and more major telescopes than any other peak. The suit was filed on behalf of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, the Sierra Club's Hawai'i Chapter and a Native Hawaiian with genealogical ties to Mauna Kea. The suit also asks the court to require the land board to approve a comprehensive management plan for Mauna Kea before considering future summit development.

Critics of the project have raised concerns about threats to endangered or rare plants and animals, disposal of toxic waste, and damage to the summit's "sacred ambience." The 13,796-foot Mauna Kea is traditionally sacred to many Hawaiians as the meeting place of the sky god Wakea and the earth mother Papa, who eventually became the parents of the first ancestor of the Hawaiian people.

The outrigger telescopes would enhance images from Keck's twin telescopes and are part of NASA's Origins Program to study how stars and planetary systems form, and whether habitable planets exist around nearby stars.

Rolf-Peter Kudritzki, director of the University of Hawai'i Institute for Astronomy, said the lawsuit "did not come completely unexpected." He said he has been advised not to discuss the specifics of the case. The institute applied for the state permit for the project, which is being financed by NASA. "I believe the contested case was a very comprehensive investigation of the whole Keck outrigger permit application," he said.

NASA still needs to complete a federal environmental impact statement for the project. If that study is completed as planned, supporters of the project hope to begin construction next year and have the new telescopes operating in 2007.

Hawaii Tribune-Herald [Hilo], Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Mauna Kea bill is faltering Legislation to speed development of observatories receives heavy opposition

By JAYMES SONG Associated Press

HONOLULU -- Despite support from business leaders, a bill that would make it easier to develop observatories and astronomy facilities at the summit of Mauna Kea appears dead. Lawmakers on Monday deferred the measure indefinitely, meaning it likely won't be taken up again this session.

Hawaiian groups and environmentalists opposed the House bill, saying it would undermine the existing public processes that regulate the development of telescopes atop the ecologically and culturally sensitive Big Island volcano. "This was a despicable attempt to sidestep and circumvent the public process and ongoing litigation by weakening protection options for the sacred summit of Mauna Kea," said Cha Smith, executive director of KAHEA, an environmental group.

Under the measure, the Department of Land and Natural Resources would designate areas as astronomy resource subzones within conservation land use districts. It would also provide for mediation in lieu of contested cases.

Ted Liu, director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, and other supporters said the bill would make Hawaii's world-class observatories even better. Liu said the bill helps "clarify and streamline the procedures required to build and operate new scientific facilities" ... with an emphasis on providing a process for effectively addressing community concerns. "We believe it makes an important contribution securing Hawaii's future as a leader in astronomical research, as well as ensuring that our citizens will play a major role in both determining and realizing that future," Liu said.

Mauna Kea currently has 13 major telescopes that represent 12 nations and bring in nearly $62 million in annual revenues to the state.

The summit is on ceded lands -- the crown or public lands successively ceded to the Territory of Hawaii and then to the state in 1959. They make up about 95 percent of state-owned lands.

Mark McGuffie, executive director of the Hawaii Island Economic Development Board, said the current review process needs to change because it is "unwieldy and unreasonable and tends to discourage astronomy investments." "We fear that maintaining the present process will stifle the natural progression of improvements and alternative sites outside of the state of Hawaii may become more attractive," he said.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs said it "strongly opposed" the bill noting that Mauna Kea is home to several endangered species. "We at OHA feel that this bill attempts to open the floodgates for more observatories on Mauna Kea and we feel Mauna Kea is one of the most sacred of Hawaiian places and that it has only so much capacity for economic development," the office said in a statement presented to lawmakers.

The bill was heard by the House Committees on Water, Land and Ocean Resources, and Higher Education.

Hawaii Tribune-Herald [Hilo], Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Report: NASA project OK

Foes want Mauna Kea telescopes moved elsewhere


Tribune-Herald staff writer

Twenty years of building observatories on Mauna Kea have harmed the environment and native Hawaiian culture, but one more project won't have much more impact, according to a NASA-funded study made public last week.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which wants to build a $60 million outrigger telescope project at the W.M. Keck Observatory near the summit of Mauna Kea, prepared the estimated $1 million study voluntarily for the new telescopes, which were given final approval by the state Land Board in November.

NASA still hasn't announced whether it will begin building the outrigger project on Mauna Kea or move the project to another location outside of Hawaii, however. NASA officials did not return a telephone call seeking further comment.

Astronomers would use the sophisticated telescopes -- each enclosed by a 30-foot wide, 35-foot high dome --to search for planets in the universe that could possibly support life.

Opponents object on grounds that the cumulative impact of 20 years of astronomy work on Mauna Kea has been poorly regulated, resulting in harm to the environment and cultural desecration of a site held sacred by many native Hawaiians. A previously prepared though less rigorous environmental study failed to address the cumulative impact of astronomy on Mauna Kea, critics said. This new study, called an Environmental Impact Statement, attempts to do that.

"From a cumulative perspective, the impact of past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future activities on cultural and biological resources on Mauna Kea is substantial and adverse, the report said.

The proposed outrigger project "would add a small incremental impact" to what's already there, the EIS concluded. But in a more positive light, it notes that the "corresponding impact (of astronomy development) on socioeconomics is substantial and positive."

The NASA project involves the construction of up to six new, so-called outrigger telescopes in a circle surrounding Keck's existing twin interferometer telescopes to create a powerful tool for exploring the sky. The project is part of NASA's mission to determine whether there is other life in the universe, allowing astronomers to provide detailed information about faint objects outside the earth's galaxy and make high-resolution observations of asteroids, comets and planets within the earth's galaxy. "The project has been planned to minimize disturbance to the cultural and environmental resources of the mountain," the EIS said, and the "knowledge that the Outrigger Telescopes would provide would increase human understanding of the universe in the tradition of the great Hawaiian navigators."

In November 2003, NASA officials said the sacredness of the 13,796-foot volcano to Native Hawaiians was a major factor in the agency's decision to prepare the EIS, even though it would delay the project, and even though a judge ruled it was not required.

The EIS was designed to address cultural impact, visual integrity of the summit, effects the potentially endangered Wekiu bug, and environmental and cumulative impacts of development on the mountain. The NASA study also identified a possible alternative site for the project. While the scientific capability of the Keck Observatory, which hosts the world's two largest and most powerful optical telescopes, is said to be unmatched, a site NASA looked at in the Canary Islands is a "reasonable alternative" to Mauna Kea, though it offers only one 10-meter telescope, higher atmospheric water vapor and some "programmatic risk," said the EIS.

In addition, the study says, the potentially endangered Wekiu bug, a candidate for the endangered species list that only inhabits the summit of Mauna Kea, could benefit from the construction project by being removed from about 800 square feet of its natural habitat to a new home three times the size of the one it's losing. "Through restoration, the amount of Wekiu bug habitat adjacent to the ... Observatory would likely increase," the report said.

Several individuals and groups opposed the development of Mauna Kea told the Tribune-Herald this week that they have not yet read the 2-3/4-inch thick study. Others who helped prepare the study, particularly the portion that addresses measures to protect cultural resources on the mountain, refused to endorse it, including the Hawaii Island Burial Council, Hui Malama I Na Kupuna o Hawaii Nei, Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, Royal Order of Kamehameha I, and the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Kealoha Pisciotta, president of Mauna Kea AIna Hou, said her group "does not support further development atop Mauna Kea, and believe(s) that the observatories need to work together to maximize the science currently conducted atop Mauna Kea." Pisciotta had not read the document she received Friday. "If it's really egregious, we have an opportunity to appeal," she said. "Other than that there's not a lot we can do."

The state Land Board approved the project in November after a two-year contested case hearing requested by native Hawaiians and environmentalists, who wanted the final decision delayed until the EIS was completed. Now Pisciotta hopes NASA will not proceed with the project until an appeal of the Land Board's decision is heard. She said NASA's failure to end the state application process until the EIS was prepared was an "extreme lack of good faith."

Now that the EIS is completed, NASA is expected to make its decision on how it will proceed sometime soon.

Pisciotta also backs the alternative site for the project. "Mauna Kea is the only place in the world where Native Hawaiians may perform traditional ceremonies and practices," she said, "but astronomy can be practiced somewhere else."

Honolulu Advertiser, Tuesday, March 22, 2005


UH changing course on Mauna Kea

By Timothy Hurley

With decades of controversy dogging astronomy activity atop Mauna Kea, the University of Hawai'i is launching an initiative aimed at making peace with its foes.

The initiative likely will include a traditional Hawaiian forgiveness ceremony that acknowledges past UH mistakes, a promise to better manage the project and an offer of a gift, perhaps a privately raised endowment for scholarships.

The university also is reshuffling its Mauna Kea management structure and funding vacant positions it said are aimed at providing greater environmental protection for the mountain, among other things.

Critics including environmental and Native Hawaiian groups have said the university has allowed the area to become overdeveloped and that the observatories desecrate a sacred site.

The latest effort comes as the university is eyeing several new telescope projects for the summit, including the possible construction of the world's largest and most powerful telescope, a $700 million project that has been called essential for modern astronomy.

But Jim Gaines, UH vice president for research, insists that even if Hawai'i were to lose the 30-meter Next Generation Large Telescope tomorrow, the university must make things right on the mountain. "It's the right thing to do," Gaines said.

UH began developing the summit of Mauna Kea — "White Mountain" in Hawaiian — for astronomy in the 1960s. More major telescopes are on Mauna Kea than on any other mountain peak.

Longtime critic Kealoha Pisciotta, president of the cultural group Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, said she is skeptical. She said foes have offered to sit down with university officials many times. "You cannot just keep saying you want a win-win situation and then do what you want for yourself while creating the illusion the people are getting what they want," she said.

Pisciotta said the proposed Next Generation Large Telescope in the undeveloped northern plateau of Mauna Kea is unacceptable, in part, because it may lead to the destruction of a number of important shrines in that area. To many Hawaiians, construction on the summit is seen as a desecration of deeply held cultural and spiritual beliefs. "We're not taking money for desecration," she said. "Nothing good can come of this unless they actually entertain the question that the community isn't supportive of further development."

Deborah Ward, co-chairwoman of the Sierra Club's Mauna Kea Issues Committee, said she's encouraged by the possibility of additional environmental protections and the potential for more discussion with cultural practitioners. "There is room for meaningful dialogue," she said.

The university's management of the Mauna Kea Science Reserve has been criticized by more than just Native Hawaiian and environmental activists. A 1998 state auditor's report found that the state's stewardship of the summit — now home to 13 telescopes and one antenna array — was inadequate to protect natural resources.

In addition, the environmental impact statement for NASA's proposed Outrigger Telescopes at the W.M. Keck Observatory noted that the university has allowed "substantial and adverse" impacts on Mauna Kea's cultural resources.

Rolf-Peter Kudritzki, director of the UH Institute for Astronomy, acknowledged that mistakes were made in the past. But, he said, that has changed over the past seven years. Kudritzki, the director since October 2000, said a significant step forward occurred about four years ago when the university created a separate entity to run the summit area. UH-Hilo oversees the Office of Mauna Kea Management with help from a community advisory board. Still, he is "absolutely comfortable" with the latest effort to reach out to the community. "It's a very essential step," Kudritzki said.

Gaines said the plan calls for an internal reorganization in which the Institute for Astronomy-run Mauna Kea Support Services branch would be placed under the the Office of Mauna Kea Management. That should end a perception of undue influence by the institute, he said.

Also under the plan, the university would pay for six previously unfunded positions — including a cultural practitioner, biologist and a couple of rangers — to help care for the 1,600-acre preserve, Gaines said.

The plan also would include an education and outreach campaign to encourage Big Island residents to pursue technical careers, including astronomy and engineering.

No details or time line is set for the forgiveness ceremony or a potential gift. Gaines said there needs to be a dialogue with the community to determine exactly what should occur. "But it's something we need to do," he said. "It's a statement that we really want to manage the mountain better."

    • Inset box **

Telescope project

An estimated $70 million in engineering and related studies have begun in hopes of luring to Mauna Kea a project to build the most powerful telescope ever.

Hawai'i and northern Chile are the two front-runners for the giant telescope. Its 98-foot mirror would have 10 times the light-gathering ability of one of the twin 33-foot telescopes at the W.M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, which has the largest optical/infrared telescope in the world.

Construction is estimated at $700 million and operations at $50 million annually. If Hawai'i is selected, the telescope could be operational by 2013.

The Mauna Kea Science Reserve Master Plan designated an approximate site for the Next Generation Large Telescope in the northern plateau area of Mauna Kea on a two-acre site off the summit ridge. The area is undeveloped.

West Hawaii Today (Kona), Friday, May 13, 2005


Litigation, not hooponopono, in Mauna Kea case



While a University of Hawaii official recently talked publicly of making hooponopono -- a Hawaiian process of peace making -- with opponents of development on the summit of Mauna Kea, native Hawaiian and environmental groups are preparing to appeal the state Land Board's approval of NASA's $50 million "outrigger" telescope project at the Keck observatory.

The hooponopono concept was raised by James Gaines, the university's vice president for research, who told the Honolulu Advertiser in March the proposed peace initiative would likely include a Hawaiian forgiveness ceremony during which university officials would admit to past mistakes, a promise to manage the summit better, and a gift, possibly a privately funded scholarship.

But spokespersons for two groups that have been among the most vocal opponents of astronomy development on Mauna Kea -- Mauna Kea Anaina Hou and the Hawaii chapter of the Sierra Club -- were not approached by anyone from the university suggesting hooponopono. Deborah Ward, spokeswoman for the Hawaii chapter of the Sierra Club, also said she heard nothing about hooponopono from the university. Gaines did not return several telephone calls seeking comment for this article.

"I'm puzzled," said Kealoha Pisciotta of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, one of several groups that filed the appeal of last October's state Land Board ruling approving the project following a contested case hearing that began in February 2003.

Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, the Sierra Club's Hawaii chapter, Royal Order of Kamehameha I, and native Hawaiian practitioner Clarence Ching are appealing the October ruling, claiming the university has mismanaged the 11,288-acre Mauna Kea Science Reserve on the summit by allowing too many telescopes, and harming Hawaiian cultural sites and potentially endangered species. The appeal will be heard in Third Circuit Court June 17 by Judge Glen Hara, continuing a long-running battle over the future of Mauna Kea's summit, where 13 observatories have been constructed by universities and research consortiums on land owned by the state and leased to the university's Institute for Astronomy.

Leah Hong, the appellant's attorney, accuses the University of Hawaii of "decades of mismanagement," and claims that the IfA refuses to provide a management plan for Mauna Kea as required by the Land Board's rules. The IfA and Land Board "engaged in short-sighted and piecemeal development of astronomy facilities on Mauna Kea" in a "rush to build more and more astronomy facilities to enhance the prestige of its astronomy program," according to a brief filed with the appeal. The appellants want the court to reverse the Land Board's ruling and find that the Outrigger project is not permitted under any current BLNR-approved management plan, and to require that the university to establish a long-term management plan for approval by the Land Board.

The university, meanwhile, complained in March that it "has waited nearly 3 1/2 years for resolution of all issues regarding the permit to build the Outrigger telescopes.

The lawsuit names the state Board of Land and Natural Resources, the university's IfA, Harry Fergestrom, and the Hawaii Island Development Board, Inc. as defendants. Fergestrom was aligned with native Hawaiian opposition to the project during the contested case hearing but has not joined formally in the appeal, Pisciotta said. The entire proceedings of the case, however, including Fergestrom's testimony, is included in the appeal.

Astronomers worry that continued opposition to further development atop Mauna Kea could jeopardize plans to bring the next generation of large telescopes to Hawaii, including the world's largest telescope, a $700 million project. Many native Hawaiians, meanwhile, consider the summit a sacred place that is being desecrated by development, and environmentalists say the continuing development on the summit could harm potentially endangered species.

The opponents wanted the board to wait for NASA to complete an Environmental Impact Study before considering the project. NASA undertook the $1 million, year-long study under pressure from a lawsuit filed by the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs, challenging the validity of earlier environmental reports.

The completed EIS concluded that astronomy's cumulative impact on Mauna Kea is "substantial and adverse" to cultural and biological resources, and that the NASA outriggers would add "a small incremental impact" to the 20-year history of adverse effects. That's why Pisciotta said wanted the Land Board to wait. "The (Land Board) is supposed to be the last check" on development, she said. "The EIS is supposed to be their source of information." The fact that astronomy has had a significant impact on Mauna Kea, according to the EIS, should have colored the board's decision, she said.

The Hawaii Island Economic Development Board, an organization of Big Island business interests which took part in the contested case hearing in support of the project, noted its "substantial and positive" impact on island socioeconomics. "Somehow we've got to get everybody to the table and discuss what those differences are," said Mark McGuffie, HIEDB director . Asked how that can be done in the face of opposition calling for halt to all new construction on the mountain, McGuffie said, "It's got to be done right and be inclusive."

Pisciotta said Mauna Kea Anaina Hou carried a plea for better relations and protection of the mountain to the Board of Regents and university president on Oahu four years ago, but, "University officials never responded to our proposal or our requests to meet with them to discuss the alternatives in it." She said recent meeting with university officials and state Legislators generated no mention of hooponopono. "We can't help but wonder whether the university's apparent change of heart is also related to the community's current litigation challenging BLNR's recent approval of NASA's Keck Outrigger Telescopes."

Pisciotta group wants to stop further expansion of astronomy facilities on Mauna Kea. "Hawaiians have never asked the university to (apologize) ... principally because the damage done to Mauna Kea has hurt all of the people of Hawaii not just us." And whatever happens in the coming appeal, Ward suggested a likely outcome. "There will be another appeal," she said.

Hilo Herald-Tribune, June 19, 2005


Appeal of Mauna Kea outrigger project begins
Opponents want plan for all of the summit

by Hunter Bishop

Does state law require a management plan for the entire summit of Mauna Kea? Or should the state Land Board's approval of the Keck Observatory's outrigger telescope project stand? Third Circuit Court Judge Glen Hara heard arguments on both sides Friday as he considers the state Land Board's decision to allow the $50 million NASA-funded outrigger project.

The outrigger project -- up to eight mirrors 6 feet across housed in 35-foot domes configured in a circle to combine the light from existing Keck telescopes into a single, powerful image -- was approved in October by the Land Board after 10 days of contested case hearings sought by Mauna Kea Anaina Hou and the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, both Hawaiian cultural groups, the Hawaii chapter of the Sierra Club, and a Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner.

Project foes appealed the Land Board's approval to Third Circuit Court. Hara can either approve the project or send it back to the Land Board for reconsideration.

Much of the argument Friday revolved around the management plan, or lack of one. The appellants' attorney, Lea Hong, said the University of Hawaii's initial application for the outrigger project relied on a 1995 management plan, which did not provide for any projects such as the outrigger. But in the contested case hearing, Hong said UH rejected the 1995 plan and instead sought simultaneous approval of the outrigger project and a management plan that included "relevant sections of the 2000 master plan."

The 2000 plan was never approved by the Land Board, which leases the summit of Mauna Kea to the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy. Only the UH Board of Regents approved the 2000 master plan, which is like the "fox guarding the hen house," Hong said. He said the Department of Land and Natural Resources "flip-flopped" its position in the middle of the contested case hearing. "The university wants permission to develop what it wants, any way it wants," Hong said, "with no accounting to the DLNR or the public."

The appellants want the outrigger project halted and the management plan thrown out until the university's IfA is "required to provide and DLNR is required to review and approve a long-term sustainable comprehensive management plan for the summit of Mauna Kea that clearly delineates ... responsibilities, enforcement authority, and financial commitments prior to allowing any further development on Mauna Kea."

Lisa Munger, attorney for the university, claims in court filings that the appellants are simply trying to further delay the project, which is nearly four years behind schedule.

Judge Hara allowed the appellants to submit material that was not considered in the contested case hearing, including documents pertaining to rules for the summit of Mauna Kea discussed by the Land Board in 1993 and 1994.

Julie China, a state deputy attorney general representing the Land Board, argued that state law does not mention a management plan. "There's been no flip-flopping," she said. The 1994 rules were the first one that included a management plan. "The DLNR read these rules as being site-specific," or in other words, just for the outrigger project, a 0.39-acre portion of a five-acre site on which the outrigger project would be located.

"The appellants want something different -- a summit-wide management plan," said Munger. "That's not in the rules. The decision was not erroneous. They want to apply intent, not the rules." State law says the department shall regulate land use in a conservation district by permits. "That's what we applied for. The hearings officer said the plan satisfied the requirements. "The board applied clear rules, the applicant followed them, and the hearing officer agreed. There was no flip-flopping."

Munger also argued that when the law says "parcel," it means the site-specific portion of the land being developed -- in this case, the outrigger parcel.

Hong said that interpretation is "plainly erroneous," and that "parcel" means the entire summit of Mauna Kea, with the intent of the law being to "maintain long-term sustainability and protection of the eco-system."

Kaliko Kanaele, a member of the Royal Order of Kamehameha, one of the appellant groups, said after the hearing that, "intent is the spirit of the law.... Without intent, you take away the check-and-balance."

Paul Neves, I Moku of the Royal Order's Hilo chapter, said that if the appellants lose on Mauna Kea, "you're going to see nothing but the Silicon Valley up there humming away."

No schedule for the judge's decision on the appeal was set.

Associated Press, June 17, 2005

The following article is clearly relevant to the Mauna Kea controversy. OHA’s lawsuit against Mauna Kea astronomy would clearly have greater authoritativeness if such a lawsuit were filed on behalf of a federally recognized Indian tribe regarding the use of tribal lands. If the Akaka bill passes and ethnic Hawaiians are given federal recognition as an Indian tribe, and if Mauna Kea then becomes part of the Akaka tribe’s lands, the situation in Hawai’i would become very similar to the situation in Arizona as reported below.


Native American Tribe Halts Telescope Project
By Associated Press
17 June, 2005

TUCSON, Arizona (AP) _ The National Science Foundation agreed to halt construction of a $13 million mountainside telescope complex after an American Indian tribe filed a federal lawsuit claiming the site is sacred.

The foundation said it will work with the Tohono O'odham Nation to assess the environmental and cultural value of the Kitt Peak area before resuming work on what the lead scientist said would be the most advanced system of its kind in the northern hemisphere.

“We are being very deferential to ensure that the tribe is on board every step of the way, said Charisse Carney-Nunes, a foundation attorney.

The tribe, which claims 24,000 members, withdrew a motion to halt the construction but said it will press the litigation. The lawsuit, filed in March, claims that the National Historic Preservation Act requires the foundation to consult with the tribe and the state Historic Preservation Office because Kitt Peak is considered sacred.

In the Tohono O'odham creation story, the universe gave birth to the world thanks to I'itoi, the deity who lives at Baboquivari Peak south of Kitt Peak.

Science foundation documents that are among court records acknowledge the importance of the two peaks to the Tohono O'odham people, formerly known as the Papago Tribe. “Both of these mountains figure prominently in tribal legend as the homes of ancient Papago gods, the papers say.

Amy Northcutt, a foundation attorney, said the group assumed it was in compliance with federal requirements because Kitt Peak National Observatory already operates on Tohono O'odham land under a 1958 lease with the agency. The site is part of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, and it supports 22 optical and two radio telescopes from eight research institutions.

The new project, the Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System, would eventually include seven scopes and is meant to detect gamma rays coming from black holes, quasars and exploding stars. About $1 million has already been spent to grade the site, install power lines and pour concrete foundations, and work continued on the telescopes offsite.

The government filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in May; the tribe's response is due next Friday.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Saturday, July 2, 2005, Excerpts



Collision Course
Hawaii gets a front-row seat for NASA’s Deep Impact mission

By Helen Altonn

ISLE STARGAZERS are anticipating some celestial fireworks tomorrow night when a spacecraft collides with a comet as part of a historic experiment to study the origins of the solar system.

Institute [For Astronomy] Director Rolf-Peter Kudritzki said, "Hawaii is one of the very few places in the world where we can witness the event live."

The $333 million mission was designed for telescopes atop Mauna Kea and Haleakala, and Hawaii astronomers had an important role in the development of the mission and technology, he said.

The NASA Discovery Mission is designed to dig deep into the comet's nucleus to expose secrets preserved from the early solar system and learn more about Earth's history, she said. Energy equivalent to about 5 tons of TNT will be produced in the crash to make a crater about seven stories deep and as big as a football field to reveal ancient material inside, she said. Another goal of the first-of-its-kind mission, Meech said, is to look at the process of how to make such a crater, "if we ever have to fend something off that might be coming toward Earth."

Meech, who spent 10 years gathering information and planning for the mission, said it was originally to be done for Chile's facilities because Hawaii's weather was risky. But the fly-by spacecraft will have only 800 seconds to take pictures of the collision and new activity at the crater, she said. A radio telescope is needed for communication with the spacecraft, and Chile has only one, while Hawaii has backup radio antennas in California and Australia, she said.

Meech, whose job is to coordinate ground-based observations for the mission, said more than 100 professional observatories worldwide will be focused on the event, as well as orbiting satellites and amateur telescopes.

"All the observatories are working together to pursue science but also to promote and share it with the public in cool ways," said Gary Fujihara, Institute for Astronomy science education and public outreach officer.

Meech said, "Everything on Earth is coordinated at Mauna Kea. All observers in the world are linked so we can talk to each other."

They will communicate to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and they will be looking at the comet's dust and gas, the impact flash, chemicals, X-rays and molecules that might help them better understand composition of comets and the early solar system.

West Hawaii Today (Kona) Sunday, July 10, 2005


Native Hawaiian group split over Mauna Kea

by Hunter Bishop
Stephens Media Group

A bitter rift in the Royal Order of Kamehameha I has spilled onto the floor of the state Legislature and into the appeal of the state Land Board's approval of a telescope project atop Mauna Kea.

The Royal Order, in existence for 140 years, has split into two competing groups using the same name. The dispute over control of the fraternal, Native Hawaiian organization is also a dispute over what should happen atop Mauna Kea.

One faction opposes development on the summit, state land leased by the University of Hawaii for astronomy research. The other faction supports development, including NASA's proposed $50 million Keck outrigger telescope project. The project was approved by the state Land Board in October but the decision is being appealed.

Both factions claim to be the only legitimate Royal Order.

The original faction opposed the telescope project in a contested case hearing last year, and joined other groups in appealing the Land Board's approval of the telescope. Led by Hilo kumu hula Paul Neves, the traditional Royal Order joined the Sierra Club of Hawaii, Mauna Kea Anaina Hou and Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners in fighting the project.

The second Royal Order, which supports some development of the summit, was created out of a power struggle following the election of Gabriel Makuakane of Kona as ali'i nui in 1999. Neves said problems arose within a year of Makuakane's election, and the order's Grand Council of Chiefs voted to depose Makuakane for violating bylaws of the organization.

However, the Makuakane-led faction was legally incorporated as the Royal Order of Kamehameha I on July 13, 2001, and subsequently expelled Neves.

Spokesman William Souza says the incorporated Royal Order is opposed to "major development" on Mauna Kea. David "Kawika" Lovell, writing as the kahu po'o of the incorporated Royal Order, said development of Mauna Kea "may be continued if it is done intelligently, with compassion and sensitivity to the Hawaiian people and their culture, and with extreme care to the fragile environment."

Souza is Hawaiian programs administrator at Leeward Community College on Oahu. Lovell heads the Hilo office of the Research Corporation for the University of Hawaii.

Lovell, whose comments were published in the environmental impact study for the telescope project, also called for all "cultural mitigation funds be awarded to the Royal Order, Office of Kahu Po'o, for the benefit of all Hawaiian people, without conditions." NASA responded that it would commit $2 million for the preservation and protection of historic and cultural resources on Mauna Kea.

Neves and Souza recently exchanged press releases accusing each others' group of deception and misrepresentation. Both groups have threatened legal action against the other.

Conflicting testimony at the state Legislature earlier this year led to harsh words and denunciations on the floor of the state Senate. Lovell testified against a resolution by state Sen. Lorraine Inouye, D-South Hilo, Hamakua, asking the state auditor to review the university's practice of charging nominal fees for the use of its Institute for Astronomy facilities on Mauna Kea. The Neves-led Royal Order backed the resolution.

Inouye, chairwoman of the Transportation and Government Operations Committee, was surprised by Lovell's testimony, since it surfaced late in the legislative process. The incorporated Royal Order had not testified at various hearings going back to the 2004 session, Inouye said.

Lovell testified that the incorporated Royal Order represented the Keaukaha community, but Inouye later said community leaders she spoke with had not taken a position with regard to the Royal Order. "We don't know where these people are coming from," Inouye said.

Kealoha Pisciotta, director of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, said it's no coincidence the spokesmen for the incorporated Royal Order are university employees trying to influence the contested case appeal. "They have shown up at the Legislature to testify against us," Pisciotta said. "They called Paul Neves an impostor and me a fraud. They were intending to hurt the action (appeal)."

In January, Souza wrote to the attorney for the telescope opponents, Lea Hong, asking her to drop the Royal Order from the case. Later, Hong also was contacted by university attorney Lisa Munger, who argued that the Neves-led Royal Order no longer held status in the case and should be removed.

Hong called Munger's request "extremely bizarre ... (and) highly unusual," and began questioning Lovell's ties to the university. "His position seems somehow associated with UHIfA-Hilo," Hong wrote to Munger. "In fact, (Lovell's) name appears on a list of contacts for the UHIfA-Hilo on the ... Web site."

Institute for Astronomy Associate Director Robert McLaren said the IfA made initial inquiries about the Royal Order but decided that the issue of which faction represents the Royal Order was not something the IfA wants to pursue. "We raised a question about the two different groups," he said, after the "obviously very public" rift, but declined to explain why the matter was not pursued.

Hong stopped short of saying the university is behind efforts to remove the original Royal Order from the contested case appeal. "It is what it is," she said. "(Lovell) works for RCUH. His office is in the IfA building. Souza also works for UH. The original charter dates back to late 19th century. It has been and remains an unincorporated association. The people making the most noise are the people from UH."

Neither Munger nor Lovell returned several telephone calls seeking comment.

In testimony April 14 to the state Legislature, Neves charged university employees with a "concerted effort ... to infiltrate and de-stabilize the Royal Order of Kamehameha I. It's very much a conflict of interest."

"Lovell sent a letter ... saying that (the Royal Order) had changed its position," Neves said. "We were shocked. It's kind of ugly."

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Saturday, August 6, 2005


NASA plans 6 new scopes
A $50 million project on Mauna Kea would add telescopes to aid the existing Keck ones

By Rod Thompson

HILO » NASA has decided to build up to six relatively small outrigger telescopes around the two giant Keck telescopes on Mauna Kea, a plan that has been opposed by some environmentalists and native Hawaiian activists.

The $50 million project would consist initially of four 35-foot-high domes arranged around the existing 111-foot-high Keck domes. The main mirror of each outrigger would be 6 feet in diameter compared with the 33-foot diameter of the mirrors of the two Keck telescopes.

By combining the light of all of the telescopes, large and small, in a process called interferometry, the equivalent of a telescope with a mirror 275 feet across will be created.

The combined instruments would do studies ranging from looking at the wobble of stars to detect planets around them, to looking at dust and gas in the process of forming new stars.

The University of Hawaii supervises the mountaintop. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration will build the telescopes. The parent organization of the Kecks will also operate the new telescopes.

Rolf-Peter Kudritski, director of the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, which has been seeking approval of the project for NASA, said the decision was based on the fact that Mauna Kea is a "scientifically superior site."

He noted that the project consists of four small telescopes that will be built on existing parking areas around the Keck telescopes. Building just four outriggers is technically difficult, so it is just as well that there is no money now for the two additional ones that could come later, he said.

NASA's decision notes that if the Keck site is not used for some reason, the project could be built in the Canary Islands or even at one of two California sites, Mount Wilson or Mount Palomar, although those would involve "reduced science."

"No alternate site matches the scientific capability of the W.M. Keck on Mauna Kea," the NASA document says.

But Haunani Apoliona, Office of Hawaiian Affairs chairwoman, said the fact that those options are still being considered shows that the final decision has not yet been made.

"I would say it's not over yet," she said, noting that NASA says the decision is "subject to the availability of funds."

OHA had sued NASA complaining that the initial environmental study for the outriggers was not well done. When NASA eventually did a full environmental impact study, they met the requirements of the law, she said last night.

The outrigger domes will not be visible from Hilo, although they will be seen from Waimea, according to the environmental impact statement. The project has been opposed by environmentalists such as the Sierra Club, who have concerns such as threats to insects, and by some Hawaiian groups, such as the Order of Kamehameha, concerned that observatories disrupt the spirituality of Mauna Kea.

NASA's July 22 signing of a "record of decision" permitting the project, followed by release of the document yesterday, does not end opposition.

More steps lasting several months must be taken before construction can start. The project must still be reviewed by the Office of Mauna Kea Management at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. That agency will make a recommendation to UH-Hilo Chancellor Rose Tseng, who will report to UH interim President David McClain. Final approval must be given by the university Board of Regents. Additional comment would be heard by the board before their decision.

Big Island Sierra Club representative Nelson Ho said NASA failed to heed cultural, economic and site consideration raised by opponents. He was one of several people who opposed the project in a hearing by the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

But the record of decision notes that a person serving as a cultural monitor, as well as an archaeologist, will oversee all construction at the project. Ho said the project will have little economic benefit for the Big Island, despite its overall $50 million price tag.

    • Drawing shows where the new telescopes would fit in among the existing ones. **


Honolulu Advertiser, Saturday, August 6, 2005


NASA still wants more scopes on Mauna Kea

By Kevin Dayton

HILO, Hawai'i — Mauna Kea on the Big Island is the best and least-expensive site for NASA's Outrigger Telescopes project, and the space agency still wants to put the $50 million stargazing project there, according to a record of decision released yesterday.

However, NASA reserves the right to move the project to a less-desirable site in Spain's Canary Islands if it can't be built on Mauna Kea, according to the decision.

The decision completes the environmental impact statement process NASA began in 2003, but the project is still being reviewed by the University of Hawai'i's Office of Mauna Kea Management, and still needs the approval of the UH Board of Regents before it can proceed.

To date, opponents of the Outrigger telescopes have filed a federal lawsuit against it, and battled the project in a contested-case hearing before the state Board of Land and Natural Resources. Another lawsuit challenging a state conditional use permit for the project is pending in Hilo Circuit Court.

Critics have said the 13 observatories on Mauna Kea have had a major impact on the sacred mountain's cultural resources, and the authors of NASA's environmental impact statement agreed.

However, the EIS concluded the relatively small additional Outrigger telescopes would have a little additional impact, and the document outlines $2 million the space agency plans for preservation and protection of historic and cultural resources on Mauna Kea in connection with the project.

The agency plans steps to protect the wekiu bug, which lives in the summit area and is a candidate for listing as an endangered species.

Opponents also have worried about potential damage to the mountain's water supply, the effect on any area burial sites, and interference with Hawaiian cultural practices.

Despite the years of delays, Rolf Kudritzki, director of the University of Hawai'i's Institute for Astronomy, said he expects NASA will press ahead to put the project on Mauna Kea because the 13,796-foot mountain "is just simply the best astronomy site in the world." "I am really convinced that it will be done on Mauna Kea, but I'm always an optimist," Kudritzki said.

The Outrigger project involves interferometry, which combines the light-gathering abilities of more than one telescope to sharpen the images astronomers can gather from deep space. The sharper images aid astronomers in their search for planets orbiting distant stars.

The most obvious advantage Mauna Kea holds over the Canary Islands is the existing twin 33-foot W.M. Keck Observatory telescopes there, which are the largest and most powerful in the world.

The Outrigger project will allow scientists to combine the Keck telescopes' observation powers with up to six new six-foot Outrigger telescopes.

If approved, construction would begin this year or next, and the new telescopes would start operating in 2007.

Between A Rock And A Hard Place, August 1, 2005



By William Perry Pendley

August 1, 2005

This month, briefs will be filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in a case that may resolve what has been, over the last year, a constitutional anomaly. In 2004, one Ninth Circuit panel held that a Latin cross, erected on federal lands to honor those who gave their lives in World War I, violated the Establishment Clause and must be removed. Later, another Ninth Circuit panel held that Arizona’s designation of private property as sacred to American Indians and off limits to use did not violate the Establishment Clause and could stand! Thus, “no” to Christianity; “yes” to pantheism. The Ninth Circuit refused to hear the Arizona case en banc to resolve this conflict.

Now comes a case from a Nevada federal district court that could force another Ninth Circuit panel to decide which panel’s view of the Establishment Clause is correct. The case, Access Fund v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, et al., challenges the district court’s ruling that the Forest Service’s decision to close Cave Rock at Lake Tahoe to all climbing because it is sacred to some American Indians does not violate the Constitution’s Establishment Clause. In rejecting the climbers’ constitutional argument, the Nevada federal district court relied on the Ninth Circuit panel’s ruling in the Arizona sacred private lands case. Held the Nevada court: “The Establishment Clause does not require government to ignore the historical value of religious sites[;] protecting culturally important Native American sites has historic value for the nation as a whole because of the unique status of Native American Societies in North American history.”

However, the Nevada district court’s ruling ignores that, for the past 30 years, the “history” and “culture” associated with religious symbols embraced by governments have not saved them from court rulings that those governments had abandoned their constitutionally required neutrality. For example, in last year’s panel’s ruling regarding the Latin cross, its historical and cultural importance as a symbol that 116,000 Americans left their homes and families and gave their lives in Europe must, indeed, be “ignore[d]” given what the cross represents. What is “unique,” therefore, about American Indian religion that would permit its practitioners to demand to go where other religions dare not: the public square? In a word, “nothing;” in fact, that is what the U.S. Supreme Court ruled back in 1988.

In Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Ass’n, the Court, in a Justice O’Connor opinion, rejected the demands by three American Indian Tribes in northwestern California that portions of the national forest traditionally used by them for religious purposes be closed to logging and road building: “Nothing in the principle for which [the Tribes] contend, however, would distinguish this case from another lawsuit in which they (or similarly situated religious objectors) might seek to exclude all human activity but their own from sacred areas of the public lands. . . . Whatever rights the Indians may have to the use of the area, however, those rights do not divest the Government of its right to use what is, after all, its land.”

Yet even if the Lyng case were not the binding legal precedent that it is, Establishment Clause jurisprudence makes clear that the Forest Service’s decision at Cave Rock runs afoul of every traditional Supreme Court test, for the Forest Service’s action “advances,” “endorses,” and “entangles” itself with American Indian religion. By agreeing with American Indians that Cave Rock is sacred and by rejecting the view of climbers that it is not, the Forest Service “conveys a message of endorsement,” informing American Indian religious practitioners that they are “insiders” and the climbers that they are “outsiders.” Indeed, the Forest Service is not demanding that non-Indians simply “respect” American Indian religion; it is “employ[ing] the machinery of the state to enforce religious orthodoxy” that views Cave Rock as sacred!

If the Ninth Circuit fails to get it right, the Supreme Court awaits.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, October 21, 2005


Saturn moon mystery cracked

Work at Mauna Kea traces methane to vents in the ground

By Rod Thompson

HILO » Astronomers using two observatories on Mauna Kea have gained evidence that methane gas shoots out of ground cracks or volcanolike structures on Saturn's moon Titan, creating clouds and weather on the giant satellite.

Astronomers know there is a lot of methane on Titan, but sunlight should quickly destroy it.

"For a long time we've wondered why there is methane in the atmosphere of Titan at all, and the answer is that is spews out of the surface," said Michael Brown, an astronomy professor at the California Institute of Technology.

"What is tremendously exciting is we can see it from Earth; we see these big clouds coming from above these methane vents or methane volcanoes," Brown said in a CalTech statement.

Brown, astronomer Henry Roe and others used the Keck Observatory and the Gemini North Observatory during a two-year period to see the methane clouds. Their findings will be published today in the journal Science.

The astronomers used an unusual viewing schedule. An astronomy team is generally given all night for one or more nights to complete its observations.

The Roe and Brown team was given only "quick looks" of a few minutes on 82 nights over two years. They saw clouds on Titan on only 15 of those nights.

"The clouds usually popped up quickly and generally had disappeared by the next day," the CalTech statement said.

Some of the clouds were 1,200 miles long, on a moon a little less than half the diameter of Earth. But the clouds were seen only in the middle of Titan's southern hemisphere, and most originated in one particular spot. Roe and Brown concluded they came from something on the ground, not activity in the atmosphere, which would be more generalized.

Although the Keck and Gemini telescopes have devices to smooth out the effects of ripples in Earth's atmosphere, they still cannot see how the methane escapes from the ground.

The gas might come from temporary cracks or from "cryovolcanoes," cold features powered by gas shooting water, ammonia and other liquids that quickly freeze, CalTech said.

California Institute of Technology
Gemini Observatory
W.M. Keck Observatory
Mauna Kea webcams

Honolulu Advertiser, Wednesday, November 2, 2005


Super scope may go to Mauna Kea

By Jan TenBruggencate Advertiser Science Writer

A Canadian engineering firm is helping design a $750 million telescope that could end up on Mauna Kea, although a decision about where to put it is at least two years away.

The Thirty-Meter Telescope — three times bigger than the world's largest optical and infrared telescopes, the twin Keck telescopes on Mauna Kea — won't be operational for another decade, but fundraising and lobbying efforts by those who want to be picked as its ultimate home are under way. Hawai'i's tallest mountain is a contender, but so are sites in Mexico and Chile.

The international engineering firm Amec Dynamic Structures, which had roles in the construction of the Keck, Gemini and Canada-France-Hawai'i telescopes on Mauna Kea, said it is involved in the design of the Thirty-Meter Telescope, which will have 700 to 800 carefully fitted mirror segments rather than one large mirror or lens.

The scope would have vastly more light-gathering power than any telescope in the world today. One of its goals will be to photograph planets circling the stars other than our own sun, said Rolf-Peter Kudritzki, director of the University of Hawai'i's Institute for Astronomy, which manages observatory sites atop Mauna Kea and Haleakala.

The telescope is a joint project of an international consortium of universities. Construction is expected to start in 2008 in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia. Kudritzki said it probably won't be processing starlight until 2015 or later.

He said the proposed Mauna Kea site is on a plateau well below the summit. The summit area is considered sacred by many Native Hawaiians. The lower location and a long-term plan to reduce the number of observatories on the summit are among Kudritzki's arguments to persuade residents to welcome the telescope.