The first time I saw this photo at the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton X-Ray space telescope site I was baffled. It didn’t look like any space structure I’ve seen before. It actually look like some kind of weird inter-dimensional portal. Or the image some may have about it. The answer was simpler and actually quite fascinating.
You are looking at the “reflection patterns off one of the gold-plated spare mirrors” of the telescope:
This image shows the journey that light particles from [supernovas and galaxies] might make on their way to the space telescope’s detectors. In this artistic shot patterns are created by light reflected in one of the gold-plated mirrors. XMM-Newton’s three telescopes each contain 58 mirrors like this, and are among the most powerful ever developed.
The XMM-Newton has nested 1mm thick mirrors, like “the layers of a leek. This construction earned the mission its name: X-ray Multi-Mirrors, while also honouring the physicist Sir Isaac Newton.” According to ESA, the mirrors shape and position ensure that every X-ray is reflected twice while focusing into the detector. [ESA]