Police and protesters are gearing up for a fight in Hawaii as construction is set to begin on a massive telescope on Mauna Kea, the islands’ highest peak, considered sacred by some native Hawaiians.
State officials said the road to the top of Mauna Kea mountain on the Big Island will be closed starting Monday as equipment is delivered to the construction site.
Scientists chose Mauna Kea in 2009 after a five-year, worldwide search for the ideal site for the largest telescope in the Northern Hemisphere. Construction was supposed to begin in 2014 but was halted by protests.
Opponents of the $1.4 billion telescope will desecrate sacred land. According to the University of Hawaii, ancient Hawaiians considered the location kapu, or forbidden. Only the highest-ranking chiefs and priests were allowed to make the long trek to Mauna Kea’s summit above the clouds.
Supporters of telescope say it will not only make important scientific discoveries but bring educational and economic opportunities to Hawaii.
The company behind the telescope is made up of a group of universities in California and Canada, with partners from China, India and Japan.
Astronomers hope the telescope will help them look back 13 billion years to the time just after the Big Bang and answer fundamental questions about the universe.
It is not clear what the opponents of the project have planned for Monday but Gov. David Ige said unarmed National Guard units will be on hand to help enforce road closures and transport workers and supplies.