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Hawaii Supreme Court Denies Telescope Construction

FILE - This 2011 artist rendering, provided by Thirty Meter Telescope, shows the Thirty Meter Telescope.

The Hawaii Supreme Court on Wednesday invalidated a permit awarded for the construction of one of the world's largest telescopes on a mountain many Native Hawaiians consider sacred.

The court ruled that the state Board of Land and Natural Resources should not have issued a permit for the telescope before it held a hearing to evaluate a petition by a group challenging the project's approval.

The ruling sends the case back to the board for a new hearing.

A group of universities in California and Canada plan to build Thirty Meter Telescope with partners from China, India and Japan. TMT Observatory Corp. was constructing the telescope on land that is sacred to some Native Hawaiians. Scientists say the location is ideal for the telescope, which could allow them to see into the earliest years of the universe.

The group suspended construction at Mauna Kea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island after protesters blocked the road to the summit.

Site already plays big role

Thirteen telescopes already in place on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii's highest point, have played major roles in discoveries considered among the most significant to astronomy.

All of the highest points in the islands are considered the home of deities, Kealoha Pisciotta, a protest organizer, said during an interview in June. In the past, only high chiefs and priests were allowed at Mauna Kea's summit.

Astronomers often use many different telescopes in locations around the world to draw their conclusions. But Guenther Hasinger, director of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii, said during an interview with the Associated Press in August that “there is almost no major astronomical discovery where there was not very important input from the telescopes on Mauna Kea.''