20 Fantastic Photos That Offer a Big Peek Into a Small World

Fluorescent turtle embryo. (Photo: Teresa Zgoda & Teresa Kugler/Nikon Small World)

From the geometric patterns of a housefly's eye to the colorful inner workings of a pregnant crustacean, the winners of this year's Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition all captured magical microscopic moments.

First place went to the vibrant image of a developing turtle above. It was created by microscopy technician Teresa Zgoda and Teresa Kugler, a recent graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York. Using fluorescence and an optical image technique known as stereo microscopy, they stacked and stitched together hundreds of images to create this final photo.

"Microscopy lets us zoom in on the smallest organisms and building blocks that comprise our world – giving us a profound appreciation for the small things in life that far too often go unnoticed," said Kugler, "It allows me to do science with a purpose."

"We are inspired by the beautiful images we see through the microscope," added Zgoda, "It's humbling and deeply fulfilling to be able to share that science with other people."

Their winning turtle image was just one of more than 2,000 entries received from nearly 100 countries in the 45th annual competition.

"The Nikon Small World competition has been bringing stunning scientific images to the public for 45 years now," said Eric Flem, communications manager, Nikon Instruments. "Our goal has always been to show the world how art and science intersect. As new imaging and microscopy techniques develop over the years, our winners showcase these technology advances more and more creatively."

Here's a look at the other top winners in this year's contest. Look at the captions to see what these very up-close-and-personal photos have captured.

2nd place

Depth-color coded projections of three stentors (single-cell freshwater protozoans). (Photo: Dr. Igor Siwanowicz/Nikon Small World)

3rd place

Alligator embryo developing nerves and skeleton. (Photo: Daniel Smith Paredes & Dr. Bhart-Anjan S. Bhullar/Nikon Small World)

4th place

Male mosquito. (Photo: Jan Rosenboom/Nikon Small World)

5th place

Snowflake. (Photo: Caleb Foster/Nikon Small World)

6th place

Small white hair spider. (Photo: Javier Rupérez/Nikon Small World)

7th place

Chinese red carnation stamen. (Photo: Dr. Guillermo López López/Nikon Small World)

8th place

Frozen water droplet. (Photo: Garzon Christian/Nikon Small World)

9th place

Tulip bud cross section. (Photo: Andrei Savitsky/Nikon Small World)

10th place

BPAE cells in telophase stage of mitosis. (Photo: Jason M. Kirk/Nikon Small World)

11th place

A pair of ovaries from an adult Drosophila female stained for F-actin (yellow) and nuclei (green); follicle cells are marked by GFP (magenta). (Photo: Dr. Yujun Chen & Dr. Jocelyn McDonald/Nikon Small World)

12th place

Mosquito larva. (Photo: Anne Algar/Nikon Small World)

13th place

Cuprite (mineral composed of copper oxide). (Photo: Dr. Emilio Carabajal Márquez/Nikon Small World)

14th place

Female Oxyopes dumonti (lynx) spider. (Photo: Antoine Franck/Nikon Small World)

15th place

Pregnant Daphnia magna (small planktonic crustacean). (Photo: Marek Miś/Nikon Small World)

16th place

Housefly compound eye pattern. (Photo: Dr. Razvan Cornel Constantin/Nikon Small World)

17th place

Vitamin C. (Photo: Karl Deckart/Nikon Small World)

18th place

Cristobalite crystal suspended in its quartz mineral host. (Photo: E. Billie Hughes/Nikon Small World)

19th place

Octopus bimaculoides embryo. (Photo: Martyna Lukoseviciute & Dr. Carrie Albertin/Nikon Small World)

20th place

Blood vessels of a murine (mouse) heart following myocardial infarction (heart attack). (Photo: Simon Merz, Lea Bornemann & Sebastian Korste/Nikon Small World)