The first time I saw this photo at the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton space telescope site I couldn't believe my eyes. It didn't look like any space structure I've seen before. It actually look like some kind of weird inter-dimensional portal.

Then I read the description and the answer was simple—and actually quite fascinating. You are looking at the "reflection patterns off one of the gold-plated spare mirrors" of the telescope, which is orbiting Earth since December 1999, when it was launched on board an Ariane 5 rocket.

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 one-millimeter-thick mirrors, like "the layers of a leek." According to ESA, the mirrors shape and position ensure that every X-ray is reflected twice while focusing into the detector. [ESA]