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The Best Photos Taken Through Microscopes Will Blow You Away

In these images, art and science come together in a surprising and beautiful way.

Posted on September 15, 2021, at 2:58 p.m. ET

Since 1974, Nikon has held a photography competition to recognize excellent images taken with the assistance of a microscope. In 2021, the competition received almost 2,000 entries from 88 countries. In these images, art and science come together in a surprising and beautiful way. We looked through this year's winning images to share our favorites.

A close-up of an ant looming over the camera with a blue background
Dr. Fred Terveer

A red forest ant (Formica rufa), 5X objective lens magnification

A close-up of a butterfly wing with scales
Sébastien Malo

The veins and scales on a butterfly wing (Morpho didius), 20X objective lens magnification

A square crystal shape on a bumpy background
Saulius Gugis

Table salt crystal, 10X objective lens magnification

A close-up of a slime mold mushroom with a fluffy top
Alison K. Pollack

Slime mold, 10X objective lens magnification

A claw of a small crab louse that has been magnified many times
Frank Reiser

The rear leg, claw, and respiratory trachea of a louse (Haematopinus suis)

A snowflake on a black background, magnified many times
Dr. Joern N. Hopke

A snowflake, 4X objective lens magnification

A gnat preserved in amber, hovering in the frame,  magnified many times
Levon Biss Photography Ltd.

A 40-million-year-old gnat in Baltic amber, 10X objective lens magnification

Swirls and pockets of color on an agatized dinosaur bone,  magnified many times
Professor Norm Barker

Agatized dinosaur bone, 5X objective lens magnification

A gridlike pattern of cells from an onion skin magnified many times
Dr. Robert Markus

Oxalate crystals in onion skin, 10X objective lens magnification

A small green cell of an algae plant, on a white background, magnified many times
Rogelio Moreno

Algae (Micrasterias), 20X objective lens magnification

The leg of a beetle, with claw and hair, on a black background, magnified many times
Dr. Andrew Mark Posselt

The hind leg of a male frog-legged beetle (Sagra buqueti), 4X objective lens magnification

A blue globe with small blue worms on a blue background,  magnified many times
Martin Kaae Kristiansen

Filamentous strands of Nostoc cyanobacteria captured inside a gelatinous matrix, 4X objective lens magnification

small, spiky round structures are butterfly eggs on a  stem,  magnified many times
Zhang Ye Fei

Butterfly eggs, 10X objective lens magnification

A pink swirl on top of a pink stem section of a flower on back background,  magnified many times
Jose R. Almodovar

A section of a bud flower of Clerodendrum paniculatum, 4X objective lens magnification

A jumble of colors on black with rocks and streaks of color throughout,  magnified many times
Don Komarechka

A thin slice of a meteorite, 10X objective lens magnification

Marco Jongsma

A passion flower (Passiflora ligularis) cross-section, 40X objective lens magnification

The stem with mold on a black background, magnified many times
Sergii Dymchenko

Mold on a cherry stem, 2X objective lens magnification

The eye of a horsefly with water droplets on it, magnified many times
Oliver Dum

The eye of a horsefly (Tabanus sudeticus), 40X objective lens magnification

A swirl of colors on a black background which is actually brain tumor cells, magnified many times
James Alexander Innes, Sebastian Brandner & Silvia Marino

Human brain tumor cells labeled with lentivirus, 10X objective lens magnification



A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.