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Hawaii's Thirty Meter Telescope could force others to close

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For one to rise, others must fall. Hawaii's governor David Ige has given his blessing to the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) that scientists want to build on the Mauna Kea mountain. But there's a catch -- in return, he wants "at least 25 percent" of the existing telescopes to be torn down. At the moment, there are 13 telescopes on the mountainside and only one is scheduled to be dismantled. Under Ige's new proposals, one facility would need to enter the decommissioning process this year, and the remainder in his 25 percent quota would need to be gone before the TMT is operational in the mid-2020s.

Locals consider the summit of Mauna Kea a sacred place, and environmentalists have criticised the TMT's likely impact on the local ecosystem. Once it's complete, the telescope will be one of the largest in the world, measuring 100 feet across and boasting 492 hexagonal mirrors. The instrument will give astronomers an unprecedented ability to examine the night sky, and hopefully learn more about the early years of the universe. But such a large facility could also damage what's considered a place of natural beauty. Ige believes that we've already "failed the mountain," but recognises the role the telescopes play in the scientific community. His latest proposal is unlikely to satisfy TMT critics, but maybe it'll start a discussion that finally leads to an accepted middle ground.

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