Long, spiny legs and alien-like armour sound like the stuff of science fiction, but our terrestrial neighbours can look out of this world if you look up close.

ANU School of Art PhD student, Erica Seccombe, has been working with the Department of Applied Mathematics to reveal unseen details of the garden slater for an exhibition opening this week at the Canberra Contemporary Art Space entitled Science Fiction.

"I wanted to explore the slater with x-ray to get a new view of the creepy crawlies under our feet in the garden," says Seccombe.

With the help of Professor Tim Senden, Head the Department of Applied Mathematics and Dr Ajay Limaye at NCI's Vizlab , Erica used the 3D Microcomputed X-ray Tomography (XCT) unit to reveal the finer features of the armoured insect.

The image data from the XCT was run through a computer program developed by Limaye. Meaning insight in Sanskrit, Drishti is a non-invasive technology used to reveal the internal structures of new materials, fossils and organs without destroying them.

"Drishti is amazing," says Seccombe. "It allowed us to explore the slater virtually. You can go through the layers – through skin, fat, muscle and bone – virtually dissecting the bug, exploring it in a million different ways. We've looked at this slater a thousand times, yet with a few adjustments, we are still seeing parts of the slater we have never seen before."

The result of this cross-disciplinary collaboration is a collection of striking images, forcing you to take a second look at the humble slater. "It's about seeing things you had no idea were even there."

"It's been such an experience working on this project," says Seccombe. "Tim and Ajay are open to other ideas and are so flexible in their thinking – there are no square pegs in round holes over here. Scientists are creative people, so we have a natural affinity.

"It's great to come to the other side of campus and collaborate with these amazing minds on something so beautiful."

Science Fiction launches at 6pm on Friday 16 August and runs through to Saturday 28 September at the Canberra Contemporary Art Space. See more of Erica Seccombe's work on her website.

This story originally appeared on ANU News