A miniature crystal castle of golden rutile quartz. The dark phosphorescent armor of a blue-black weevil. Slime molds growing spores that look like rich caramel apples. An otherworldly alien pineapple, nested as the stamen and stigma of a Hibiscus flower bud.
These eerily beautiful images — and over 80 more — were honored this year as part of the Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition.
The Japanese camera-maker and imaging technology firm has held the competition, which spotlights the photographic achievements of those taking images through a microscope, for nearly half a century since 1974.
For this year’s competition, an estimated 1,900 photos were submitted to an open call by photographers and scientists from 72 countries. The pictures were then judged by a five-person panel that included a Princeton cell biologist and the photo editor for the BBC’s Science Focus magazine.
The top award for this year went to neuroscientist Hassanain Qambari, a researcher at the Lions Eye Institute’s Centre for Ophthalmology and Visual Science in Perth, Australia. Qambari’s picture, a microscopic, compound photo of a rodent’s optic nerve head taken via confocal microscopy, also had a practical purpose: aiding patients with diabetes.
Qambari’s work at the Lions Eye Institute has focused on the issue of diabetic retinopathy, a complication from diabetes that can lead to blurry vision or blindness due to damage in the blood vessels near the back of the eye.
‘Current diagnostic criteria and treatment regimens for diabetic retinopathy are limited to the late-stage appearance of the disease,’ Qambari said in a news release, ‘with irreversible damage to retinal microvasculature and function.’
He hopes his retinal imaging work will aid in the early detection and reversal of the disease, which impacts approximately 1 in 5 people with diabetes.
A blistering close-up of the tip of a match, as it ignites along a matchbox, took the second-place prize, a submission from German digital artist Ole Bielfeldt.
Third place went to a healthcare consultant based in Warsaw, Poland, Malgorzata Lisowska, for her image of a serendipitous valentine growing within a cluster of breast cancer cells.
But all of the top 86 images from Nikon’s competition this year are marvels to behold. Below are twelve that the DailyMail.com can’t stop thinking about.
This castle-like golden rutile in quartz was snapped by Danny Sanchez from California. The inclusions are needle-like strands that are often reddish or golden in appearance. The stunning stone is popular among the spiritual community as people believe the quartz enhances the ability to provide new opportunities and direction. This image won honorable mention
These budding slime molds were captured by Dr. Frantisek Bednar from Slovakia. Slime molds are single-celled organisms that lack a brain and neurons. But somehow, these colonies can make complex decisions to survive, allowing them to determine which direction will take them to the best food source
The ultra-close image of a blue-black weevil pest was photographed by Dr. Andrew Posselt of the University of California. Weevils are beetles but don an elongated snout. The image of the pest is six times magnetized to capture even the smallest details on its antennas, which feature chewing abilities
Left, an icy image that is really a 25-times magnification of crystallized sugar syrup taken by Dr. Diego García of Universidad Complutense de Madrid in Spain using a polarized light method. At right, a literally blistering close-up of the tip of a match as it ignites along a matchbox. The submission, from German digital artist Ole Bielfeldt, took the second-place prize this year
This fluorescent photo of an Acropora aspera shows individual polyps with symbiotic zooxanthellae Dr. Pichaya Lertvilai of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California took the images at five times magnification. This stony coral is typically found in the Indian Ocean and western parts of the Pacific Ocean. Each polyp has a stomach that opens at only one end
A cryptocrystalline micrometeorite resting on a #80 testing sieve taken by Scott Peterson of New Hope, Minnesota. Peterson used 20X (Objective Lens Magnification)
Venomous fangs of a small tarantula taken again by John-Oliver Dum in Germany. 10X (Objective Lens Magnification)
Cleared mouse embryo taken by Dr. Arthur Chien of Macquarie University in New South Wales, Australia
Diatoms (single-celled algae) arranged on the head of a pin by Jan Rosenboom in Germany. 4X (Objective Lens Magnification)
Motor neurons grown in microfluidic device for separation of cell bodies (top) and axons (bottom). Green – microtubules; Red – growth cones (actin). Image taken by Melinda Beccari and Dr. Don W. Cleveland of the University of California, San Diego Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine in La Jolla. Image used confocal, fluorescence and 20X magnification