The human eye may be a remarkable tool for viewing the universe, but it also limits our perception of reality to a limited macroscopic range.
Fortunately, microscopes give us access to a fantastic, beautiful and sometimes shocking universe that hides beyond the limits of seeing.
To honor the championship required to capture the microscopic world and celebrate its wonders, the Nikon Small World competition selects the best photos taken with a microscope – and has done so for decades every year.
"Our goal has always been to show the world how art and science overlap," said Eric Flem, communications manager for Nikon Instruments, in a press release. "With the development of new imaging and microscopy techniques over the years, our winners have become more creative with this technology."
In the 45th year of the competition, four jurors reviewed more than 2,000 submissions from almost 1
We've published the Top 20 below – including images of a fluorescent turtle embryo, a close-up of the compound eye of a housefly and a psychedelic cross-section of a tulip flower bud (top) – along with 20 of our other favorites from the contest.