Four-day-old zebrafish embryo by Oscar Ruiz, United States

Overall Winner –– Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition 2016

Oscar Ruiz brought the world face-to-face with his research on facial development and mutation tracking with his winning image, a microscopic view of the facial development of a four-day-old zebrafish embryo, taking out first place in the 2016 Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition.

In his lab at MD Anderson Cancer Centre in Houston, Texas, Ruiz mimics the genetic mutations that lead to cleft palate and cleft lip in humans. He then induces these conditions in the zebrafish, which as babies are helpfully transparent and ideal to study.

“Until now, these facial deformities have been understudied in live context, where you can see what’s happening in the embryo in real-time,” Ruiz said. “A zebrafish’s characteristics make it ideal for live imaging so we can better understand and pinpoint exactly when and why these developmental abnormalities form. The first step is knowing how it happens, then we can figure out how to fix it.”

The Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition is open to anyone with an interest in photography. Scientists, photographers and hobbyists from 70 countries submitted more than 2,000 entries this year. 

Photo credit: Dr. Oscar Ruiz / Nikon Small Worlds 2016

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Entwined lives by Tim Laman, United States

Overall Winner –– Natural History Museum, London – Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016

American photographer Tim Laman won Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016 for his image of a critically endangered Bornean orangutan above the Indonesian rainforest.

The image captures a young male orangutan after making a 30-metre climb up the thickest root of the strangler fig that’s entwined itself around a tree emerging high above the canopy to feast on the crop of figs. The image overlooks the rich rainforest of the Gunung Palung National Park, in West Kalimantan, one of the few protected orangutan strongholds in Indonesian Borneo.

Laman knew the orangutan would return and that there was no way to reach the top – no route through the canopy – other than up the tree. Laman did three days of climbing up and down, by rope, to position several GoPro cameras that he could trigger remotely to give him a chance of a wide‑angle view of the forest below but also a view of the orangutan’s face from above. His work paid off when he captured a shot looking down on the orangutan within its forest home.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year is a platform for the world’s best nature photography, showcasing the planet’s most extraordinary and revelatory sights. This year’s competition was the most competitive to date, attracting almost 50,000 entries from professionals and amateurs across 95 countries.

 Photo credit: Tim Laman / Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016

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Baily’s Beads by Yu Jun, China

Overall Winner –– Insight Astronomy Photographer of the year 2016 

Chinese photographer Yu Jun has beaten a record number of amateur and professional photographers from over 80 countries to win the title of Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016 – an annual global search for the most beautiful and spectacular visions of the cosmos.

The judges were captivated by Jun’s unusual image illustrating the phenomenon of Baily’s Beads, taken over a matter of mere minutes during the total solar eclipse on 9 March 2016 from Luwuk, Indonesia.

“Baily’s Beads [named after English astronomer Francis Baily] occur as the moon passes in front of the sun. From Earth it seems like the sunlight around the edge of the moon is broken into fragments because of the uneven lunar surface. This creates the illusion of a string of bright beads encircling the moon,” Jun said

Made of several stacked images, the visually striking photograph impressed competition judge and Royal Observatory Public astronomer Marek Kukula: “Its succession of fiery arcs all perfectly balanced around the pitch black circle of totality. It’s even more impressive when you realise what it shows: the progress of a solar eclipse, all compressed into a single frame with consummate skill and precision. A tremendous achievement that pushes the boundaries of what modern astrophotography can achieve.”

Photo credit: Yu Jun / The National Maritime Museum / Royal Observatory Greenwich’s Astronomy Photographer Of The Year 2016 Competition 

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Dancing with stars by Imre Potyó, Hungry

Overall Winner –– 2016 Royal Society Publishing Photography Competition

A ghostly image of luminescent mayflies swarming against an inky sky has won first place in the Royal Society Publishing photography competition.

The winning shot, by Imre Potyó, glimpses the final courtship dance of short-lived adult Danube mayflies on the bank of the Rába River in Hungary.

At the beginning of the courtship, females fly together with males above the water surface, where they copulate. After copulation, the females fly upstream to deposit their eggs before falling, spent of energy, onto the water where they die. This stunning image captures female Danube mayflies making this final flight.

The photo was chosen from more than 1,000 entries by a panel for capturing the chaos of courtship backed by a starry night sky and silhouetted trees.

Winner Imre Potyó, who is an environmental researcher, said of his image: “It’s difficult to capture as their mating swarms are unpredictable and can last only a couple of hours. For me this shot captures the fantastic energy and chaos of the mayflies and the mood of the night time too. “It’s particularly significant as this is a phenomenon that has been absent from the Danube for a few decades. The mayflies disappeared when the water became too polluted for their young to survive. The mayflies have now returned, probably due to the improving water quality. I hope this image draws attention to these spectacular endangered water insects.”

The award, now in its second year, celebrates the power of photography to communicate science and shows the beautiful images encountered whilst studying the world around us.

Photo credit: Imre Potyó / 2016 Royal Society Publishing Photography Competition

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Smilin' Orion by Troy Casswell, Australia

Overall Winner –– 2016 Central West Astronomical Society “David Malin Awards”

This wide field image taken by Queensland’s Tory Casswell reveals nearly the entire constellation of Orion and won the top prize in this years Central West Astronomical Society Astrophotography Awards – the David Malin Awards during the annual AstroFest in Parkes, NSW.

Orion is a constellation rich in stellar dust and bright nebulae. The red nebulae are hydrogen rich clouds excited by the many young stars in the area – a quantum response to stellar radiation emitting the narrow band Ha (656.28 nanometres).

“This is a very challenging field to photograph, given its enormous extent and very wide dynamic range, with the very bright Orion nebula and the delicately structured faint arc of Barnard's Loop,” said David Malin, world-renowned astrophotographer and competition judge. “These issues are beautifully handled here and the image is aesthetically well balanced and presented. A worthy winner.”

The annual competition for amateurs honours the best photos and timelapse videos of the night sky taken by cameras or telescopes in a range of technical categories.

Photo credit: Troy Casswell / 2016 Central West Astronomical Society “David Malin Awards” 

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Piercing Headache by Matthew McIntosh, Australia

Overall Winner –– 2016 Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year

Overall winner of the 2016 Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year was Queensland photographer Matthew McIntosh, who impressed the judges with his image of an orange-eyed tree frog (Litoria chloris) trying to attract the attention of its female counterparts.

“Several male orange-eyed frogs were pronouncing their prowess, attempting to attract females. [But] some of the frogs enticed the wrong kind – bloodthirsty female mosquitoes in search of a meal,” McIntosh said, describing the scene in the winning photo taken at Cedar Bay National Park, Queensland.

This year winner was selected from a record 2,171 competition entries, submitted by more than 450 professional, emerging and junior photographers from around the world.

The competition, now in its 13th year, was developed by the South Australian Museum in partnership with Australian Geographic to play raise awareness of conservation issues and the fragility of our natural world.

Photo credit: Matthew McIntosh / Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year / South Australian Museum

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Ebola virus by David Goodsell, United States

Overall Winner –– 2016 Wellcome Image Award

US artist and microbiologist David Goodsell has taken out this year’s Wellcome Image Awards with an intricate watercolour and ink painting of the Ebola virus.

The image shows in minute detail the internal structure of this tiny, notoriously lethal virus. The central core is drawn in three dimensions so that you can see its structure more clearly, a view only possible through illustration.

“This is a stunning illustration of a deadly pathogen – a cross-section through an Ebola virus particle,” said Fergus Walsh, BBC medical correspondent and member of the judging panel.

“The judges felt that this watercolour and ink image elegantly displayed the biological structure of a virus which has caused such devastation in West Africa.”

To create the scientifically accurate painting, David started by extensively researching the size of different molecules and how they interact with each other.

Then he sketched and painted them methodically, with each structure finally outlined in pen.

Large molecules inside the virus are depicted here but not water and small molecules.

The Ebola virus is surrounded by a membrane (pink/purple) stolen from an infected cell. This is studded with proteins from the virus (turquoise) which extend outwards and look like trees rooted in the membrane. These proteins attach to the cells that the virus infects.

Another layer of proteins (blue) supports the membrane on the inside. Genetic information (RNA; yellow) is stored in a cylinder (nucleocapsid; green) in the centre of the virus.

This virus is approximately 100 nanometres (0.0001 millimetres) wide – some 200 times smaller than many of the cells it infects.

Credit: David Goodsell / 2016 Wellcome Image Award

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Eye Spy by Mark Seabury, Australia

Overall Winner –– Nature Conservancy Photography competition 2016

A stunning image of a whale poking its head above the water to take a look around and see what’s happening above the surface was the overall winner of The Nature Conservancy Australia Photo Competition 2016.

Taken in Hervey Bay by seasoned New South Wales nature photographer Mark Seabury this photograph captures the whale behaviour called “spy hopping”.

Competition judge and professional nature photographer, Esther Beaton said of Seabury’s image “When you examine the photo closely, your eye finds more and more detail to discover. The eyes of humpback whales are normally hidden and shaded, so it is unusual to find one ‘looking’ with such a strong, clear gaze. It is also in such an unusual position, dead vertical, with only its snout out of the water. Again something that normally is not part of humpback behaviour. An exceptional overall winner.’”

The competition received 16,120 beautiful photos that celebrate Australia’s natural beauty and helped raise awareness for conservation.

Photo credit: Mark Seabury / The Nature Conservancy, Australia

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Camping Stove Heat Plume by Phred Petersen, Australia

Gold Winner  –– Royal Photographic Society’s International Images for Science 2016

Revealing the invisible turbulence of rising hot air, Melbourne high-speed photography specialist Phred Petersen’s schlieren image of the heat plume from a liquid-fuelled camping stove took out the gold in the Royal Photographic Society’s International Images for Science 2016 competition.

Schlieren photography allows us to see and record the refractive index differences between the hot air from the flame and the cooler ambient air in the surrounding environment and makes for a stunning image.

A selection panel picked the winning image from more than 2,500 entries.

The annual competition is open to anyone interested in science from all levels of experience and encourages images from all scientific fields, showing any aspect of science, whether it be recording, documenting or capturing how science is seen and how it affects everyday life.

Photo credit: Phred Petersen / International Images For Science 2016

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Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park during sunrise by Davide Gaglio, South Africa

Overall Winner –– 2016 BMC Ecology Image Competition

This year’s overall winner of the BMC Ecology Image Competition encompassed a wide range of ecological relationships within one finely composed photograph.

The stunning landscape image of grazing antelope against the sunrise in the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa, taken by Davide Gaglio, a PhD student at the Percy Fitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town, stood out above the rest.

A guest judge ecologist Matthew Palmer from Columbia University in the US liked the rich details of the winning photo: "The image is strikingly beautiful, particularly the colours and the composition, but it also tells several stories. “The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park spans the border of South Africa and Botswana and is an example of cooperation and shared management between countries – a peace park. However, large areas of this park were leased for the extraction of natural gas in 2014, which may have negative effects on the park's wildlife."

Photo credit: Davide Gaglio / 2016 BMC Ecology Image Competition

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The Dark Side and the Bright Side by DSCOVR EPIC team, United States

Winner –– 2016 Tournament Earth

An epic view from a million miles away of the moon transiting Earth has won the day taking out the Tournament Earth 2016 crown.

A NASA camera aboard the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) orbiting about 1.6 million kilometres from Earth captured this unique view of the moon as it passed between the spacecraft and Earth.

The annual tournament begins with Thirty-two of the best Earth Observatory images in four categories: Data, Art, Event, and Photograph, each battling the other with the public voting each week in order to see which will to be crowned the best image of the year.  

Photo credit: NASA / DSCOVR EPIC team.