THE world’s most powerful camera became fully functional yesterday on the look-out for asteroids and comets on collision course with Earth.

The Pan-Starrs sky survey telescope will be searching the stars from dusk till dawn providing our first line of defence against possible devastation.

While only 1.8m (6ft) long, the telescope has a 1,400 megapixel digital camera that can photograph an area of the sky as large as 36 full Moons in a single exposure.

It will take more than 500 images each night, collecting about four terabytes of data – the equivalent to what 1,000 DVDs can hold.

Astronomers from the universities of Durham and Edinburgh and Queen’s University Belfast will be among those using the telescope, which was designed, built and is based in Hawaii. Scientists believe the device could also provide clues to the mysteries of dark energy and dark matter which they believe shaped our cosmos.

They hope to validate Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which says that light can bend around an object in space – such as dark matter – because it is pulled towards the object by gravity.

by agency