House of the Sun: Haleakala

Science City on the summit of Haleakala.

Science City on the summit of Haleakala.

Charae Tongg talks about the conflict stirring at the top of Haleakala over the construction of a new telescope, the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope. What happens when culture collides with science?

Listen here [2:45m]:

What’s the facts:

The final plans for the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope, or ATST,  are in.  The ATST will be used to study the Sun and to help predict and prepare for solar-activity related disasters. Once the builders of the ATST (headed up by the National Solar Observatory and 22 collaborating institutions) have an Environmental Impact Statement completed, astronomers will prepare to build their brand new telescope on the beautiful summit of Haleakala on the island of Maui.  While progress toward building ATST is on its way,  it isn’t, by any means, a smooth process.

When locals on Maui got wind of the plans, many were deeply offended. For centuries the mountaintop has been seen as sacred to the Ali’i or Hawaiian chief royalty, and it is believed today to be an ancient burial ground for the Ali’i and their families. Astronomers argue that studying the Sun is the most appropriate scientific activity to conduct on the top of Haleakala, whose name means “House of the Sun,” and that such research would honor ancient Hawaiian beliefs.

Those who oppose the project have formed a group called Kila Kila o Haleakala or “majestic is the house of the sun.” Some locals are willing to compromise, suggesting that the telescope be constructed differently (possibly with fewer stories, or of a different color), but engineers argue that current building plans are necessary for a telescope of such ability.

What are your thoughts?

Original air date 9 June 2009.

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One response to “House of the Sun: Haleakala

  1. FYI, there is also news that an even bigger telescope is slated for Mauna Kea on the island of Hawai’i: http://www.tmt.org/news/site-selection.htm

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