• The world we see with our eyes is just one view of reality, but microscopes can bring a smaller, practically invisible universe within reach.

    Photographs taken through the lenses of a high-power ‘scope can reveal lifeforms and objects no person has ever seen.

    They also highlight beautiful, artistic, and often shocking details in common objects, like soap bubbles, dried coffee, flowers, and butterfly tongues:

    microscope photos nikon small world 2016 Butterfly proboscis

    A butterfly proboscis.Jochen Schroeder/Nikon Small World

    The Nikon Small World contest celebrates the most amazing microscope photos from around the world, and 2016’s competition was as amazing as any of the years before it: more than 2,000 entries from 70 countries. (I was a judge for the 40th year of the contest.)

    Nikon will release the winners on Wednesday, October 19, via its Instagram account, @NikonInstruments.

    Until then, soak in the finalists below — and cast a vote for your favorite.

    Red speckled jewel beetle

    Red speckled jewel beetle

    Yousef Al Habshi/Nikon Small World

    Eyes of a jumping spider

    Eyes of a jumping spider

    Yousef Al Habshi/Nikon Small World

    Slime mold

    Slime mold

    Jose Almodovar/Nikon Small World

    Glycerin-based soapy solution

    Glycerin-based soapy solution

    Haris Antonopoulos/Nikon Small World

    Ammonite shell

    Ammonite shell

    Norm Barker/Nikon Small World

    Zooplankton carefully arranged by hand in Victorian style

    Zooplankton carefully arranged by hand in Victorian style

    Stefano Barone/Nikon Small World

    Microcrystal test for oxycodone

    Tiger beetle and a scale of the forester moth

    Human HeLa cell undergoing cell division

    Head of a skinbow zebrafish larvae

    Fungus growing on cow dung

    Scales of a butterfly wing

    Mouse hand showing veins

    Tintinnid ciliate of a marine plankton from the Indian Ocean

    The prolegs of a hairy caterpillar gripping a small branch

    Head of an orange ladybird

    Fossil diatom composed of 20 individual photos

    Flow currents generated by an eight-week-old starfish larva

    Butterfly scales

    Butterfly scales

    Scales of a butterfly wing Agrodiaetus thersites Chapman’s Blue maleAnne Gleich/Nikon Small World

    Air bubbles in evaporating tequila

    Rubber coated with a thin glass

    Beta-alanine and taurine crystals

    Deep sea crustacean

    Mouse retinal ganglion cells

    Mouse retina, laid flat

    A daisy’s central disc pattern of tiny unopened flowers

    Black elder tree flower stamen

    Spore capsule of a moss

    Tail of a small shrimp

    Cross section of a lily of the valley

    Brain matter of a transgenic mouse in 3D

    Testis of a fruit fly

    Section of the cerebellum in a brain

    Surface of embryonic mouse kidney

    Barley stem cross section

    Leaves of a lesser club moss

    Crystals of salicin, a painkiller, extracted from Willow tree bark

    Seeds of an Indian Paintbrush wildflower

    Curvepod fumewort seed

    Egg of a Gulf Fritillary butterfly

    Caudal gill of a dragonfly larva

    Air bubbles formed from melted ascorbic acid crystals

    Leg of a water boatman

    Polished slab of Teepee Canyon agate

    A Frontonia cell showing ingested food, cilia, mouth, and trichocysts

    Cerebellum brain section of a rat

    Hippocampal brain slice

    Goatsbeard flower seeds

    Poison fangs of a centipede

    Cross-section of reinforced carbon-fiber

    Young flower buds of Arabidopsis, a flowering plant

    Section of stem of a plant specimen

    Crystals of diclofenac (also called Zorvolex), a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug

    Four-day-old zebrafish embryo

    3D picture of moving vesicles

    Front foot of a male diving beetle

    Inside of a humped bladderwort, a freshwater carnivorous plant

    Gear-like hind legs of a planthopper nymph

    Scales of a butterfly wing underside

    Section of a begonia flower

    Jurinea mollis seed

    Dahlia flower section

    Leaves of a liverwort plant

    Trumpet animalcule an endosymbionts

    Hippocampal neurons

    Galls of a mite and fungus on the surface of a scarlet firethorn plant

    Ant leg

    Ant leg
     
     

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