The telescope, as large as eight basketball courts with a diameter of 65 meters and height of 70 meters, is the fourth largest in the world and will be used to track and collect data from satellites and space probes.
The newly built radio telescope can pick up eight different frequency bands and also track Earth satellites, lunar exploration satellites and deep space probes, according to Hong Xiaoyu, head of the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory.
It will greatly enhance China's ability to position space probes and assist the flights of Chang'e III or the third phase of the country's lunar exploration program, the observatory announced on its website yesterday.
"We hope that the new radio telescope will go into operation earlier so that we can use it to observe the unmanned lunar probe Chang'e-II," said Wu Weiren, chief designer of the lunar orbiter project.
Chang'e II, China's second unmanned moon probe, was launched on October 1. It is testing key technologies and collecting data for the future launches of Chang'e III and Chang'e IV.
The telescope will be used for Very Long Baseline Interferometry or VLBI, a type of measurement of astronomical distances used in radio astronomy, as it can collect accurate data and increase its angular resolution during astronomical observation.
China's VLBI system is made up of four telescopes in the cities of Shanghai, Beijing, Kunming in southwest Yunnan Province, and Urumqi in the northwest Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, as well as a data center in Shanghai.
Radio telescopes differ from optical ones in that they use radio antennae to track and collect data from satellites and space probes.
The first radio antenna used to identify astronomical radio sources was built by American Karl Guthe Jansky, an engineer with Bell Telephone Laboratories, in the early 1930s.