Windhoek - The huge “Cherenkov” telescope, the size of two lawn tennis courts and the biggest of its kind, has started to capture cosmic rays from its base in Namibia, scientists have announced.

The 600-ton telescope structure with its 28-metre mirror will be observing the most violent and extreme phenomena of the universe in very high energy gamma rays.

It “not only provides the largest mirror area among instruments of this type worldwide, but also resolves the cascade images at unprecedented detail, with four times more pixels per sky area compared to the smaller telescopes”, Pascal Vincent, one of the scientists, said in a statement released on Thursday in Europe.

The so-called “Cherenkov” HESS-II telescope is situated about 100 kilometres west of the Namibian capital Windhoek.

“The successful commissioning of the new HESS II telescope represents a big step forward ... for the astronomical community as a whole and for southern Africa as a prime location for this field of astronomy,” said Werner Hofmann of Germany's Max Planck Institute.

South Africa in May secured the right to co-host with Australia the world's biggest super radio telescope that would give mankind its farthest peek into the Universe, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

Namibian first HESS observatory has been in operation for almost 10 years and run by more than 170 scientists from 12 different countries including South Africa, Germany, France, Britain and Australia. - Sapa-AFP