Supernovas, synapses and salt-water crocodiles

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Saltwater Crocodile, Justin Gilligan

Ten stunning images from the Australian Museum New Scientist Eureka Prize for Science Photography  – from WA, QLD, SA, ACT, NSW.


From the fading tendrils of a long-exploded star to the new connections between nerve cells in our brains: this year’s Australian Museum New Scientist Eureka Prize for Science Photography finalists give glimpses into life at every level.

The three finalist and seven highly commended images will be published publicly on Friday 24, on the Australian Museum and New Scientist websites, and are also available for publication in connection with stories on the Eureka Prizes.

If you need high resolution copies for publication you’ll need a password to access the following link:

Please drop us an email saying which images you need and why.

The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are the country’s most comprehensive national science awards, honouring excellence in Research and Innovation; Leadership; Science Communication and Journalism; and School Science. Presented annually by the Australian Museum, the 16 Eureka Prizes are worth a total of $160,000. This year two new prizes reward excellence in rural research and in international collaboration.

The winner of the prizes will be announced in the presence of more than 600 science, government, cultural and media leaders at the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes Award Dinner at Sydney Town Hall on Wednesday 26 August.

The three photography finalists are amongst 49 entries selected as finalists for 16 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes.

For media enquiries please contact the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes media team:

Niall Byrne,, 0417 131 977

Errol Hunt,, 0423 139 210

The three finalists are:

Thorny-Headed Worm, Aileen Elliot, Murdoch University: 

Seeing amazing life forms, such as this thorny-headed worm (phylum Acanthocephala), has the power to turn a mundane day in the lab into one of sheer brilliance. While dissecting a bland peritoneal cyst from an eel tailed catfish, Tandanus tropicanus, Aileen Elliot was surprised when out popped this incredible little worm. With this image, Aileen gets to share her modern day Darwinian moments of discovery with others and hopes to excite and inspire the next generation of budding parasitologists.

Thorny-Headed Worm, Credit: Aileen Elliot

Thorny-Headed Worm, Aileen Elliot

Soft Coral, Gary Cranitch, Queensland Museum: 

Soft corals are more diverse and widespread than hard corals, but much less is known about their overall contribution to coral reef biodiversity. About one-third of the world’s soft coral species are found on the Great Barrier Reef, with our limited knowledge of these species an indication of how much we still have to learn. Through his beautiful image, Gary Cranitch highlights this true ‘indicator’ species.

Soft Coral, credit: Gary Cranitch

Soft Coral, Gary Cranitch

Saltwater Crocodile, Justin Gilligan: 

Exploring the coral reefs of Kimbe Bay in Papua New Guinea is like being caught in a literal time warp, where the hours pass by like fleeting moments. For Justin Gilligan, this juvenile saltwater crocodile presented the perfect opportunity for a close encounter on a glistening natural stage. When taking this stunning image, Justin focused on the raised eyes and nostrils and the camouflaged skin – all adaptions this crocodile needs to live a life both above and below the water surface.

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Saltwater Crocodile, Justin Gilligan

The seven highly commended entries are:

Prismatic Life, Sapphirina, Julian Uribe-Palomino, IMOS-CSIRO Plankton Team, Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship:

Sapphirina is the name given by science to this beautiful micro-crustacean (subclass Copepoda) which produces a metallic blue colouration when light strikes the animal’s body at a certain angle. This male specimen was collected near North Stradbroke Island in Queensland. Julian Uribe-Palomino’s striking image shows how the microscopic structure of the exoskeleton gives this animal the amazing ability to reflect light in a beautiful composition of colours.

Prismatic Life, Sapphirina, credit: Henry J Uribe-Palomino

Prismatic Life, Sapphirina, Julian Uribe-Palomino

A tiny parasitic wasp in dark Cape York amber, Geoff Thompson, Queensland Museum:

The tiny parasitic wasp in this focus-stacked image of dark Cape York amber is 10–20 million years old. A crack in the amber let air in and caused the beautiful silvering effect. Geoff Thompson’s image enabled an overseas expert to remotely identify the wasp as a new species in the genus Phanuromyia (family Platygastridae). Australian amber fossils were unknown until Cape York amber was discovered by Beth Norris in 2003. The 38 source images needed to produce this photograph were taken on a Visionary Digital imaging system at what was then its maximum magnification.

A tiny parasitic wasp in dark Cape York amber, credit: Geoff Thompson

A tiny parasitic wasp in dark Cape York amber, Geoff Thompson

Looking Without Seeing, James Dorey:

The primary, forward-facing, eyes of jumping spiders are among the most complex of the invertebrate world, with a structure allowing high resolution colour vision through an internal lens system capable of rotary and side-to-side movements. These two male garden jumping spiders, Opisthoncus parcedentatus (family Salticidae), have no idea the other is just millimetres away, as without a direct line of sight their senses often fail them. James Dorey took this single frame image during an undergraduate study on the prey preference of jumping spiders, in which vision was considered the primary determinant of prey choice.

Looking Without Seeing, credit: James Dorey

Looking without seeing, James Dorey

In Search of Memory, Dr Victor Anggono, University of Queensland:

Understanding the molecular mechanism of neuronal communication is one of the outstanding questions in modern neuroscience. Disruption in this fundamental process is often associated with many neuropsychiatric disorders and neurodegenerative diseases. Dr Victor Anggono’s photograph depicts developing nerve cells (neurons) extending their processes, known as axons, and projecting to one another to establish synaptic connections. The ability of neurons to modulate the strength of their connectivity within a neural circuit, termed synaptic plasticity, has long been postulated as a cellular correlate of learning and memory and is essential for normal brain function.

In Search of Memory, credit: Victor Anggono

In search of memory, Victor Anggono

Another planet: Epacris paludosa (Alpine Heath) Ericaceae, Seedy Volunteers, Friends of the Australian National Botanic Gardens and Australian National University:

Much like discovering another planet, imaging can reveal the intricate form of tiny plant seeds, and this idea inspired the Seedy Volunteers’ image. The National Seed Bank aims to store living seeds for tens to thousands of years for the conservation and research of native plants, and this seed (0.53 mm in length) is one of them. The image was taken with a FEI-Verios scanning electron microscope, then cropped, retouched and coloured.

Another planet: Epacris paludosa (Alpine Heath) Ericaceae, credit: Fanny Karouta-Manasse and Mark Lockrey

Another planet: Epacris paludosa (Alpine Heath) Ericaceae, Seedy Volunteers

Imperfect Focus, Associate Professor Harald Kleine, School of Engineering and IT, University of New South Wales:

Light can be focused to a single spot, but the focus of nonlinear waves, like shock waves, is always spread out so that the pressure and temperature amplification in the focal area is limited. Associate Professor Harald Kleine’s intriguing sequence of interferograms, taken in a single experiment with a high-speed camera, graphically illustrates this imperfect focusing. The coloured areas around the focus and the vortex structure seen in later frames are clear indicators of the energy that could not be brought to the focus.

Imperfect focus, credit: Harald Kleine

Imperfect Focus, Associate Professor Harald Kleine

The Vela Super Nova Remnant, Paul Haese:

The Vela Super Nova was probably seen by humans around 11,000 years ago as a new star. It would have been a significant event seen during daylight hours for those on the sunlit side of the planet. Now, however, it is just a faint accumulation of dust and gas, drifting in knots across a wide area of space in the constellation of Vela. Paul Haese’s spectacular image reminds us how important the Vela Super Nova Remnant has been, enabling researchers to better understand the life and death of a star and furthering knowledge of our universe.

The Vela Super Nova Remnant, credit: Paul Haese

The Vela Super Nova Remnant, Paul Haese