Astronomers and TMT Supporters Gather at AAS235 in Honolulu

Astronomers and TMT Supporters Gather at AAS235 in Honolulu

Astronomers from all over the country (and the world) have gathered at the American Astronomical Society’s 235 meeting (also known as AAS235) in Honolulu, Hawaii, to share their research, learn from their colleagues, and advocate for science and astronomy in the aloha state.

Present among them is grassroots organization Imua TMT, a group that is working hard to combat the many misconceptions and false narratives surrounding Thirty Meter Telescope and the current protests, especially the claim that all native Hawaiians are against the telescope’s construction on Mauna Kea.

Imua TMT, who is unaffiliated with TMT itself, is opening each day of the convention with a sign-waving show of support outside the Hawaii Convention Center (where the event is being held) and some of its members ‒ a few who are of Hawaiian descent ‒ are presenting talks focused on TMT in the Community.

The above panel covered the following topics…

  • 1) Addressing Common Misconceptions and Seeking Common Ground (Thayne Currie)
  • 2) Cultural and Educational Initiatives by the Thirty Meter Telescope (Laurie Chu)
  • 3) Investing in the Future of Hawaii (Jason Chu)
  • 4) STEM Outreach Initiatives Supports Opportunities for Locals in Community STEM Careers (Bri Onde)
  • 5) The THINK Fund as a Key Provider of STEM Opportunities in HawaiI (Amber Lei)
  • 6) The Thirty Meter Telescope and Hawaii Secondary Education (Andrew Repp)

…and was well-received by many astronomers who attended.

There was also a presentation by highly-respected Hawaiian wayfinder Kalepa Baybayan of the Hōkūleʻa. Kalepa discussed astronomy’s important role in celestial navigation and supports the idea that Mauna Kea can be shared between cultural practitioners and scientists, both of whom place a heavy emphasis on conservation and environmental protection.

Kalepa Baybayan at AAS235
Hōkūleʻa wayfinder Kalepa Baybayan presents to a packed room at AAS 235.

In a past interview, Baybayan said about the situation:

“As a Native Hawaiian, I believe Maunakea is a deeply spiritual place. There is more than enough room for people to have their own practice, cultural practice, scientific research. We just need to have the collective will to share the Mauna.”

The second half of the convention, which wraps up on Wednesday, January 8th, will be full of additional panels covering many aspects of astronomy, including several that touch further on TMT and The US Large Telescope Program, the latest effort for research institutions to help bolster and maintain the US’s strong lead in the field of astronomy.