South Africa has officially launched MeerKAT, the largest and most powerful radio telescope in the southern hemisphere, with a display of the clearest radio image of a super massive black hole yet taken.

The telescope is made up of 64 antennas spread across an area of 8km (5 miles).

It is an integral part of the wider Square Kilometre Array (SKA), a 3,000 - dish project which will be the largest radio telescope in the world upon completion.

Each of the dishes has a diameter of 13m, weighs 42 tons and is 19m high.

South Africa’s Deputy President David Mabuza unveiled the project in the small town of Carnavon, in the sparsely populated Northern Cape Province.

He said: “Africa has a lot to do for the advancement of science. This is the time for Africa. We invite the world to come and witness what a united effort and collaboration of all partner nations can achieve to advance human civilisation.”

The project has created 7,284 jobs in the resurfacing of the road to the site, the installation of power lines and fibre cables.

The other African countries involved are: Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zambia.