Behold, the GIANT GOLDEN SPIDER! Ok, this shiny marvel is actually a 2012 look at the James Webb Space Telescope under construction at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center:

The golden-colored thermal blankets are made of aluminized kapton, a polymer film that remains stable over a wide range of temperatures. The structure that looks like a silver and black cube underneath the "spider" is a set of cold panels that surround the Optical Telescope Simulator's optics.

During testing, OSIM's temperature will drop to 100 Kelvin (-280 F or -173 C) as liquid nitrogen flows through tubes welded to the chamber walls and through tubes along the silver panels surrounding OSIM's optics. These cold panels will keep the OSIM optics very cold, but the parts covered by the aluminized kapton blankets will stay warm.

"Some blankets have silver facing out and gold facing in, or inverted, or silver on both sides, etc.," says Erin Wilson, a Goddard engineer. "Depending on which side of the blanket your hardware is looking at, the blankets can help it get colder or stay warmer, in an environmental test."

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Want more James Webb coverage? Starting with this overview, and more here, here, here, and here!

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Credit: NASA/GSFC/Chris Gunn