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Australian photographer awarded prestigious Swedish prize

September 4, 2000

David Malin, photographic scientist and astronomer at the Anglo-Australian Observatory (now the Australian Astronomical Observatory, AAO) and Adjunct Professor of Scientific Photography at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) has been awarded one of photography's most prestigious prizes, the year 2000 Lennart Nilsson Award. The award, which carries a prize of 100,000 Swedish crowns, was made in recognition of Professor Malin's achievements in the field of astronomical photography.

The prize will be awarded at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm on October 20. This organisation is responsible for awarding the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Prof. Malin has been invited to present a special lecture at the Nobel Forum at the Institute on the day before he receives his award.

The prize is named for Lennart Nilsson, world-renown scientific photographer whose stunning and controversial images of the human fetus in utero appeared as a photo-essay in the pages of Life magazine some years ago. The winner is selected annually by an international committee and the award recognises individuals whose work uncovers some aspect of the natural world that is normally hidden from view.

After a career in England using microscopes to explore the very small, Malin turned his attention to larger and more distant things when he joined the AAO in 1975. He has made his reputation by revealing hidden features of galaxies and nebulae. Most of his pictures are made from plates taken with the telescopes of the Anglo-Australian Observatory which are located on Siding Spring Mountain near Coonabarabran, in outback New South Wales, Australia.

Using special techniques he has devloped himself, Malin has discovered two completely new types of galaxies, one of them (Malin-1) is among the most massive galaxies ever found, 20 times the size of the Milky Way, itself a large galaxy. After 14 years of intensive searching only three more of these faint and elusive galaxies has been found. The photographic technique used for this discovery has been dubbed "malinisation". The same process uncovered what are now known as "Malin-Carter" shell galaxies, fuzzy, featureless elliptical galaxies, but with unexpected, sharp-edged, extremely faint features associated with them. These are believed to be the ancient signatures of galaxy mergers that took place billions of years ago. David Malin also has an asteroid named for him.

David Malin's best known images are the colour pictures he has made using these and related photographic techniques. These images have been widely published and exhibited and are some of the finest wide-field, deep-sky colour photographs available. David Malin has published over 120 scientific papers on astronomy and photography and a similar number of articles in popular journals in his 25 years with the AAO. He has also authored or co-authored seven books and his photographic exhibitions are touring art galleries around the world, with recent openings in Campbelltown, (Australia), Lund, (Sweden) and another in Newark, New Jersey in October.

David Malin
Australian Astronomical Observatory
P.O. Box 296 (167 Vimiera Road)
Epping, NSW 2121

E-mail dfm@aao.gov.au 
Phone      +61 2 9372 4867 (office hours)
Fax          +61 2 9372 4860 (office hours)
Phone      +61 2 9979 9678 (home)
Fax          +61 2 9997 1914 (home)
More information about David Malin is available from

more information and a photo appears on

David Malin's photographs can be accessed from
for a quick look try

Publication-sized JPG files of images listed below can be downloaded from


dfm_portrait.jpg       Colour image of David Malin
dfm_aat_pf.jpg         David Malin at the prime focus camera of the AAT
dfm_blair.jpg            David Malin with Tony Blair, opening an exhibition of Malin's photographs in Beijing, October, 1998
dfm_enlarger.jpg      David Malin and his favourite enlarger
dfm_darkroom.jpg   David Malin in his darkroom
Malin-1.jpg               Images of the faint galaxy Malin-1 (arrowed), before and after 'malinisation' (B&W)
ngc1344.jpg             Negative picture of NGC 1344, one of the first 'Malin-Carter' shell galaxies to be discovered (B&W)

Some 300dpi colour pictures of AAO astronomical photographs by David Malin (hotlinks go to smaller, captioned images)
NB These images are copyright and are only to be used in the context of this press release

aat100_300.jpg     The Sombrero galaxy, one of the most beautiful galaxies
aat036a_300.jpg   The Horsehead nebula, an astronomical icon
aat017_300.jpg     A spiral galaxy like the Milky Way
aat066_300.jpg     The light echo of supernova 1987A
aat076_300.jpg     The globular cluster 47 Tucanae, the oldest stars
uks004_300.jpg    Around the yellow star Antares and the multicoloured Rho Oph nebula
uks008_300.jpg    The Orion nebula, the nearest star-forming region
uks033_300.jpg    Comet Hyakutaki, a recent visitor

More information about The Lennart Nilsson Award is available from:

More information about the Karolinska Institute:

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David Malindfm@aao.gov.au 
4 September, 2000