Images that amazed and fascinate: Cosmos’ favourite science images of 2023

Cosmos Magazine


Cosmos is a quarterly science magazine. We aim to inspire curiosity in ‘The Science of Everything’ and make the world of science accessible to everyone.

By Cosmos

From 3D printing culinary masterpieces to a fungus-eating fungus, images have brought some of science’s most enlightening (and entertaining) discoveries and innovations to life in 2023.

Here are 10 of the images that surprised, inspired and amazed us in science this year.

A ruptured candida cell on the micro-spiked titanium surface
Credit: RMIT.

Cop that!

Here, a Candida fungal cell has been speared by blades of titanum. This image – magnified to 20,000x – shows these microspikes, each the height of a bacterial cell, destroying a common source of hospital infection. Its inventors from RMIT in Melbourne hope these spikes could be etched into titanium implants as a form of drug-free resistance against fungal and bacterial infection.

Cake 1
Credit: Jonathan Blutinger / Columbia Engineering

3D printed cheesecake

Feeling hungry? After loading a pre-programmed recipe into a 3D printer, a team from Colombia University, US, has brought software, robotics and baking together. After several attempts, the research team was able to print a series of tasty morsels, taking about 30 minutes to bake and, by all accounts, introducing cakeshop aromas into the lab.

Spider fossil
Megamonodontium mccluskyi. Credit: Michael Frese.

11-million-year-old spider print uncovered

Arachnophobes be relieved, this spider is much, much smaller than the photo might suggest. About 5cm long, this fossilised ancient trapdoor spider won’t bother you either – it lived at least 11 million years ago. Named Megamonodontium mccluskyi, this species is most closely related to modern brush-footed trapdoor spiders found in southeast Asia. The fossil was found near Gulgong in New South Wales this year.

Green laser being fired into sky next to tower
The laser lightning rod in action. Credit: TRUMPF/Martin Stollberg

Lasering lightning

Could a laser beam alter the course of a lightning bolt? According to a French-led study at the start of the year, they might be as good an option as using lighting rods to divert powerful lightning bolts – successfully doing so on 4 occasions during a test near a communications tower on Säntis Mountain in Switzerland.

The underside of a seastar from the genus hymenaster
The underside of a seastar from the genus Hymenaster showing its oral cavity. Credit: SMARTEX Project, Natural Environment Research Council, UK (

5,000 new animals found on the seafloor

Quite a catalogue. In May, the UK’s Natural History Museum published incredible photos from a 5,000-species-rich catalogue. These animals hail from a controversial part of the ocean floor known as the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, which is a potential hotspot for seabed mining.

Aerial picture of kenya's rift valley
Credit: British Ecological Society and Fayz Khan

A rift of life and death

The Great Rift Valley is one of the most extreme places on Earth. These highly alkaline lakes are home to cyanobacteria – sometimes called blue-green algae – which produce and release toxins that are lethal to many plant and animal species. And yet as this photo by Fayz Khan (recognised as the best student photo at the British Ecological Society’s annual photography competition) shows, the waters are boon feeding grounds for lesser flamingos, which have evolved to feed on the algal blooms and tolerate the deadly water that would strip away the skin of most other species.

An ant apepars to explode with fungus
Credit: João Araújo

A green-on-blue killer

Turns out not all fungi are friends with each other. This picture by New York Botanical Garden mycologist João Araújo won the planets and fungi category of the BMC Ecology and Evolution image competition. It shows an ant being parasitised by an Ophiocordyceps zombie-ant fungus, which can be seen in the form of a large stroma (the stem protruding from its neck). But even such a deadly parasite has its own enemies, with Araújo capturing a mycoparasitic fungus, which appears here as the fluffy, white-coloured fungus along the stroma giving Ophiocordyceps a taste of its own medicine.

A close-up view of a barred spiral galaxy. Two spiral arms reach horizontally away from the core in the centre, merging into a broad network of gas and dust which fills the image. This material glows brightest orange along the path of the arms, and is darker red across the rest of the galaxy. Through many gaps in the dust, countless tiny stars can be seen, most densely around the core
Credit: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, A. Adamo (Stockholm University) and the FEAST JWST team

Spiral spectacular

This spiralling galaxy M83 is truly spectacular, as captured by the Mid-InfraRed imager on board the James Webb Space Telescope. The light captured in this image is from the mid-infrared range, beyond what humans can see, in the 5 to 28 micrometres wavelengths. This image looks like a massive fireball in space, but is of course just one of the countless galaxies in our universe.

Aerial view showing a submerged bridge that emerged from under a reservoir during severe drought in uruguay in june 2023.
Credit: Martín Silva/AFP via Getty Images

The consequences of a record year

2023 is the hottest year on record, and potentially the hottest in tens of thousands of years. This aerial image from Martin Silva shows a bridge, once submerged in the Paso Severino reservoir in Uruguay, which suddenly reappeared in June as severe drought evaporated its stored water.

Oddly shaped doughnut rock on mars
Doughnut-shaped rock on Mars captured by NASA rover Perseverance. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS/LANL/CNES/IRAP.

Mars doughnut

To round it out, this misshapen doughnut was found on the surface of Mars earlier this year by NASA’s Perseverance rover.

Sadly, it’s just a rock, resting on the edge of the 45km wide Jezero Crater currently being explored by the intrepid rover and its partner vehicle, the Ingenuity helicopter.

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