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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