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Oscar Trophies Use Same Gold-Coating Technique As Space Telescopes

The Oscars for this year has just wrapped up, with the winners taking home the coveted gold-plated statues. As it turns out, the golden trophies have something in common with space.

The same process used to coat Oscar statues will now help NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope examine faraway galaxies at the price tag of $8.9 billion, Space.com reports.

Gold is an extremely useful substance in space because it never tarnishes. It also reflects light in infrared wavelengths so that distant objects are easier to spot, and blocks the absorption of radiant heat. The James Webb telescope, set for launch next year, used gold to coat its 32-foot-long refrigerant cube that cools the Mid-Infrared Instrument.

Instruments for space are usually gold-coated using a vapor-depositing method. Here, gold is heated up until it turns into a gas, which then condenses on a surface to form a fine layer, NASA officials explained. However, this makes gold fragile and causes the metal to lose some of its reflective properties.

John Gygax, an engineer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said,

We’ve seen many times over the years that somebody will put a nice gold coating on something, but as soon as you bend it, all of a sudden a whole layer of gold will peel up and flake off.

Epner Technology came up with a technology called “electroplating” to apply gold, which uses electric currents to coat another metal with more precious metals. The company’s proprietary technique has been used for aerospace purposes since the 1990s, but tEpner has worked with NASA since the 1970s.

This technology caught the eye of people at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which had problems with its Oscar statues. The trophies were previously cast in tin alloys then plated with gold. But this method meant that the golden luster eventually faded. Epner started working with the Academy in 2016.

David Epner, company president, said, “We guaranteed that our gold coating will never come off.”

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