Astronomers are always trying their best to get their telescopes in the best locations possible for observing phenomena and bodies from outer space, and for a good reason, as light pollution is a big deal breaker as they interfere severely with telescopes.
After years of legal battles and months of protests by Native Hawaiian opponents, the international coalition that is looking to build the world’s largest telescope in Hawaii strongly suggests that the islands’ highest peak, Mauna Kea, is the best place for the $1.4 billion instrument, but there’s a very good second best option in Spain.
The Spanish alternative
Officials from Thirty Meter Telescope acknowledge that their backup location is atop a peak on the Spanish Canary island of La Palma, being a similar location and costing a similar amount of money while also requiring just about the same period of time to be built.
Also, there are no protests against putting the telescope on La Palma like there are in Hawaii, where natives believe that the mountain is sacred and they did all they could to block trucks from hauling construction equipment to Mauna Kea’s summit for over a month.
Hawaii vs Spain
There are some slight advantages of Hawaii: higher altitude, cooler temperatures and rare star-gazing moments which could allow the cutting – edge telescope to achieve its full potential.
“Every once in a while at Mauna Kea, you get one of those magic nights […] When the air is super stable above the site, you get images that you simply couldn’t get anyplace else.” – Michael Bolte, astronomy and astrophysics professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Arguably, these “magic” Hawaii nights might output discoveries which might be simply missed in La Palma.