SCIENCE

Our World Is Mesmerizing On The Micro Level, And These Award-Winning Photos Are Proof

You've never seen a spider, a caterpillar, or even a DVD reader quite like this before.

The winning photos this year in Nikon's annual Small World Photomicrography Competition offer a very up-close look at these three things and many others--and they're absolutely beautiful.

The annual competition, which is celebrating its 40th year, showcases some of the best microphotography from around the world. This year, more than 1,200 entries from at least 79 countries were vying for top honors. The entries were judged by biologist Dr. Paul Maddox, Slate science editor Laura Helmuth, and Popular Science's online director Dave Mosher.

Which photo took first place? Panama resident Rogelio Moreno's image of a rotifer's open mouth. Rotifers are sometimes called microscopic "wheel" animals and are commonly found in freshwater.

Check out the top 20 winning photos below.

  • 1
    1st Place:
Mr. Rogelio Moreno
Panama, Panama. Rotifer showing the mouth interior and heart shaped corona. Differential Interf
    1st Place: Mr. Rogelio Moreno Panama, Panama. Rotifer showing the mouth interior and heart shaped corona. Differential Interference Contrast 40X
  • 2
    2nd Place:
Mr. Alessandro Da Mommio
Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Università di Pisa
Pisa, Italy. Rhombohedral cleavag
    2nd Place: Mr. Alessandro Da Mommio Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Università di Pisa Pisa, Italy. Rhombohedral cleavage in calcite crystal. Crossed Polars 10X
  • 3
    3rd Place:
Noah Fram-Schwartz
Greenwich, Connecticut, USA. Jumping Spider Eyes. Reflected Light
20X
    3rd Place: Noah Fram-Schwartz Greenwich, Connecticut, USA. Jumping Spider Eyes. Reflected Light 20X
  • 4
    4th Place:
Ms. Karin Panser
Institute of Molecular Pathology I.M.P.
Vienna, Austria. Caterpillar proleg with circle of grippi
    4th Place: Ms. Karin Panser Institute of Molecular Pathology I.M.P. Vienna, Austria. Caterpillar proleg with circle of gripping hooks in red. Confocal, Autofluorescence 20X
  • 5
    5th Place:
Dr. Muthugapatti K. Kandasamy
Biomedical Microscopy Core, University of Georgia
Athens, Georgia, USA. Bovine pulmo
    5th Place: Dr. Muthugapatti K. Kandasamy Biomedical Microscopy Core, University of Georgia Athens, Georgia, USA. Bovine pulmonary artery endothelial cells stained for actin (pink), mitochondria (green) and DNA (yellow). Super Resolution Microscopy 0X
  • 6
    6th Place:
Dr. Douglas Brumley
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambr
    6th Place: Dr. Douglas Brumley Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. Active fluid flow around P. damicornis (coral polyp). Fluorescence, Autofluorescence 4X
  • 7
    7th Place:
Mr. Dennis Hinks
Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Circuitry in DVD reader. Cross-polarized microscopy
100X
    7th Place: Mr. Dennis Hinks Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Circuitry in DVD reader. Cross-polarized microscopy 100X
  • 8
    8th Place:
Dr. Igor Robert Siwanowicz
Janelia Farm Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)
Ashburn, Virginia,
    8th Place: Dr. Igor Robert Siwanowicz Janelia Farm Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Ashburn, Virginia, USA. Appendages of a common brine shrimp. Confocal 100X
  • 9
    9th Place:
Ms. Meritxell Vendrell
Servei de Microscòpia, Universitat Autònoma
Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. Parsley (Petroseli
    9th Place: Ms. Meritxell Vendrell Servei de Microscòpia, Universitat Autònoma Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) ovary fixed and stained to show lectins (red) and nuclei (blue). Confocal laser scanning microscopy 63X
  • 10
    10th Place:
Dr. Paul Joseph Rigby
CMCA, The University of Western Australia
Crawley, Western Australia, Australia. Daisy peta
    10th Place: Dr. Paul Joseph Rigby CMCA, The University of Western Australia Crawley, Western Australia, Australia. Daisy petal with fungal infection and pollen grains, whole mount, unstained. Confocal autofluorescence 10X
  • 11
    11th Place:
Mr. Stefano Barone
Cremona, Italy. House cricket's tongue (Acheta domesticus). Rheinberg illumination (Dark field
    11th Place: Mr. Stefano Barone Cremona, Italy. House cricket's tongue (Acheta domesticus). Rheinberg illumination (Dark field with interference filter) 25X
  • 12
    12th Place:
Mr. Douglas Moore
University Relations and Communications, University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point
Stevens Point,
    12th Place: Mr. Douglas Moore University Relations and Communications, University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point Stevens Point, Wisconsin, USA. Montana Dryhead agate, unpolished. Axial lighting was provided by Leeds fiberoptic illuminators 50X
  • 13
    13th Place:
Mr. Charles Krebs
Charles Krebs Photography
Issaquah, Washington, USA. Conochilus unicornis (rotifer), actively f
    13th Place: Mr. Charles Krebs Charles Krebs Photography Issaquah, Washington, USA. Conochilus unicornis (rotifer), actively feeding. This rotifer species forms a free floating spherical colony. Differential Interference Contrast 417X
  • 14
    14th Place:
Dr. Ali Erturk
Munich, Germany. Mouse brain vasculature. Light-sheet fluorescent microscopy
2X
    14th Place: Dr. Ali Erturk Munich, Germany. Mouse brain vasculature. Light-sheet fluorescent microscopy 2X
  • 15
    15th Place:
Mr. Charles Krebs
Charles Krebs Photography
Issaquah, Washington, USA. Chrysochroa buqueti (jewel beetle) carapac
    15th Place: Mr. Charles Krebs Charles Krebs Photography Issaquah, Washington, USA. Chrysochroa buqueti (jewel beetle) carapace, near eye. Diffused, Reflected Illumination 45X
  • 16
    16th Place:
Dr. Nils Lindstrom
Developmental Biology, The Roslin Institute
Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. Three transgenic kidneys
    16th Place: Dr. Nils Lindstrom Developmental Biology, The Roslin Institute Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. Three transgenic kidneys cultured together, showing colliding branching collecting duct systems. Confocal 20X
  • 17
    17th Place:
Mr. Rogelio Moreno
Panama, Panama. Pleurotaenium ovatum (micro algae). Polarized Light, Lambda Plate
40X
    17th Place: Mr. Rogelio Moreno Panama, Panama. Pleurotaenium ovatum (micro algae). Polarized Light, Lambda Plate 40X
  • 18
    18th Place:
Mr. Jens H. Petersen
MycoKey
Ebeltoft, Denmark. Anagallis arvensis (scarlet pimpernel). Macroscopy
80X
    18th Place: Mr. Jens H. Petersen MycoKey Ebeltoft, Denmark. Anagallis arvensis (scarlet pimpernel). Macroscopy 80X
  • 19
    19th Place:
Dr. Sabrina Kaul
University of Vienna
Vienna, Austria. Larval stage of the acorn worm Balanoglossus misakiensis,
    19th Place: Dr. Sabrina Kaul University of Vienna Vienna, Austria. Larval stage of the acorn worm Balanoglossus misakiensis, dorsal view, showing cell borders, muscles and apical eye spots. Confocal 10X
  • 20
    20th Place:
Dr. Dylan T. Burnette
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
Nashville, Tennessee, USA. A crawling bone cancer
    20th Place: Dr. Dylan T. Burnette Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Nashville, Tennessee, USA. A crawling bone cancer (osteosarcoma) cell showing actin filament bundles in the lamella. Structured Illumination Microscopy 8000X
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