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Rare images beyond the naked eye

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The annual Small World Photomicrography Competition sponsored by Nikon aims to showcase “the beauty and complexity of life as seen through the light microscope.”

Indeed, the 2010 winning photographs reveal what’s not seen or visible to the human eye. While many of the stunning images were taken to advance science, some are just simply beautiful to look at.

The following photos were amongst this year’s 20 winners, but you can see hundreds of gorgeous photos featured from previous years as well. Some winning photographs are on display at museums across the country. You can also learn how to create your own masterpieces.

(Photo: Dr. Paul D. Andrews, University of Dundee, Scotland)

Above is a picture of two human cancer cells sitting next to each other right before they’re about to divide into four cells. They’re derived from the now famous “HeLa” line of cancer cells, which were taken from Henrietta Lacks in 1951 and used for medical research without her permission. “Understanding how cells divide is critical to understanding how cancerous cells multiply and take over,” according to Dr. Andrews.

(Photo: Dr. Gregory Rouse, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, California, U.S.)

Mollusc baby
Dr. Rouse is a marine biologist who started taking photos through a microscope to raise awareness of “the spectacular beauty that lies hidden in the sands of the sea.” The baby bivalve, which is part of the Limidae family, was swimming like a scallop by clapping its shells together when the photo was taken.

(Photo: Gerd Guenther, Dusseldorf, Germany)

Soap film
You can see colors of soap bubbles with the naked eye, but the colors are so much more intense and beautiful under the microscope. The photo above was taken right before the soap film collapsed. Guenther is an organic farmer in Dusseldorf, Germany, who takes microphotos as part of his work — to get a closer look at plants — and for the fun of it.

(Photo: Yanping Wang, Beijing Planetarium, China)

Soy sauce
Wang is a screenwriter who was inspired to take microphotos as a hobby when she looked at snowflakes under a microscope. Here she shows the details of traditional Chinese soy sauce. Wang chose this particular image because it’s the only soy sauce crystal that resembles a human face.

(Photo: Charles Krebs, Washington, U.S.)

Wasp eye
Krebs is a professional photographer who specializes in small insects. Here he shows a Ichneumon wasp compound eye magnified 40 times.

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