While the engineers tackle these challenges, European astronomers are making the scientific case for the ELT. At this week's meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society, Hook summarized a new report
prepared by more than 100 of her colleagues.
The possibilities appear remarkable, including images of solar-system objects that would require a space probe today, views of Earth-sized exoplanets, and spectroscopic studies of the first stars and galaxies. However, Hook is more excited by the discoveries she can't predict.
"Personally, it's the unexpected results that I'm looking forward to," she says. "Every time we build a new class of telescope … it has turned up something that we hadn't predicted."