Take a peek at the beautiful world found beneath the microscope with this year’s Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition.
This year marks the 47th annual photomicrography competition from Nikon Instruments Inc, the world's longest-running microscopy image competition, and the winners are as bewilderingly stunning as ever.
“Nikon Small World was created to show the world how art and science come together under the microscope. This year’s first place winner could not be a better example of that blend,” Eric Flem, Communications Manager at Nikon Instruments, said in a statement.
This year’s top prize was swooped by Jason Kirk for his image (above) showing the microscopic works of a southern live oak leaf, including its trichomes, stomata, and vessels. Trichomes (seen in white) are hair-like structures that help to protect plants. Stomata (in purple) are the teeny holes that allow carbon dioxide, water vapor, and oxygen to flow in and out of the plant, while the vessels (cyan) simply transport water throughout the leafy plumbing.
Capturing this kind of image is no small feat, no pun intended. Jason took this image using a custom-made microscope system that snapped around 200 individual images of the leaf and stacked them together. It also required a complex arrangement of both transmitted and reflected light to highlight all three planet structures. The image was then subtle tweaked in post-production to further bring out these features.
“The lighting side of it was complicated,” explained Jason, who also directs the Optical Imaging & Vital Microscopy (OiVM) Core at Baylor College of Medicine. “Microscope objectives are small and have a very shallow depth of focus. I couldn’t just stick a giant light next to the microscope and have the lighting be directional. It would be like trying to light the head of a pin with a light source that's the size of your head. Nearly impossible.”
The second prize was awarded to Esmeralda Paric and Holly Stefen for their cosmic image (above) showing hundreds of thousands of networking neurons. Despite looking like something you’d see down the end of a telescope, the microscopic picture actually shows a microfluidic device containing around 300,000 networking neurons separate in two sections. Between the two sections, axons can be seen bridging the gap.
Frank Reiser took the Third Prize for his razor-sharp image (above) of hog louse’s claw and innards.
Below you can see the remaining top 10 images picked out by this year’s judging panel, which included science communicator, author, and YouTuber Hank Green.
If these teeny things tickled your fancy, you can see the winners of the Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition 2020 right here.