- The Nikon Small World contest highlights the best microscope images taken each year.
- The 2019 contest attracted more than 2,000 entries from nearly 100 countries.
- This year’s top image is a picture of a turtle embryo awash with a rainbow of fluorescent colors.
- Other winners include a cross-section of a tulip bud, the eye of a housefly, and a jewel bearing.
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Human eyes may be remarkable tools to view the universe, but they also restrict our perception of reality to a limited, macroscopic slice.
Fortunately, microscopes grant us access to a fantastic, beautiful, and sometimes shocking universe that hides beyond the limits of vision.
To honor the mastery required to capture the microscopic world and appreciate its wonders, the Nikon Small World contest picks the best photographs taken through a microscope — and has done so each year for decades.
“Our goal has always been to show the world how art and science intersect,” Eric Flem, Nikon Instruments’ communications manager, said in a press release. “As new imaging and microscopy techniques develop over the years, our winners showcase these technology advances more and more creatively.”
For the 45th year of the contest, four judges reviewed more than 2,000 pictures submitted from nearly 100 countries. A little more than 100 photos stood out from the pack.
We’ve posted the top 20 below — including images of a fluorescent turtle embryo, a close-up of a housefly’s compound eye, and a psychedelic cross-section of a tulip flower bud (above) — along with 20 of our other favorites from the contest.
A fluorescent photo of a turtle embryo took first place. The photographers stacked and stitched together hundreds of images to fully capture every detail.
A trippy image of three stentors, a type of single-celled protozoa that lives in fresh water and feeds on algae, snagged second place.
A photo showing a fluorescent alligator embryo came in third. The picture was taken just 20 days into the creature’s development, as nerves and a skeleton formed.
Here are the rest of the top 20 selections, followed by 20 of our personal favorites:
10. Cells from the pulmonary artery of a young cow undergo the telophase stage of mitosis, in which they form two nuclei before dividing into two new cells.
15. A pregnant freshwater crustacean called Daphnia magna.
17. A crystal of ascorbic acid, also known as vitamin C, reveals fascinating structures under a microscope.
In addition to those winners, 15 photos got honorable mentions. Here are the best ones, starting with this image of a moth wing.
A fossilized ammonite, a sea creature that went extinct about 66 million years ago.
Amino acids, the building blocks of proteins and life, crystallized under a microscope.
Dozens more fantastic photos received recognition from the judges as “images of distinction.” This one shows eggs inside a brine shrimp.
A single-celled organism called Paramecium caudatum that had been fed yeast cells stained with red dye.
The deer-like antennae of a Haplomalachius flabellatus insect.
Myoepithelial cells wrapped around milk-producing sacs in a mouse’s mammary gland.