The most incredible microscope images of 2016 reveal a beautiful, hidden universe

The world we see with our eyes is just one view of reality, but microscopes can bring a smaller, practically invisible universe within reach.

Photographs taken through the lenses of a high-power ‘scope can reveal lifeforms and objects no person has ever seen.

They also highlight beautiful, artistic, and often shocking details in common objects, like soap bubbles, dried coffee, flowers, and butterfly tongues:

microscope photos nikon small world 2016 Butterfly proboscisA butterfly proboscis.Jochen Schroeder/Nikon Small World

The Nikon Small World contest celebrates the most amazing microscope photos from around the world, and 2016’s competition was as amazing as any of the years before it: more than 2,000 entries from 70 countries. (I was a judge for the 40th year of the contest.)

Nikon will release the winners on Wednesday, October 19, via its Instagram account, @NikonInstruments.

Until then, soak in the finalists below — and cast a vote for your favorite.

Red speckled jewel beetle

Eyes of a jumping spider

Glycerin-based soapy solution

Tiger beetle and a scale of the forester moth


Head of a skinbow zebrafish larvae

Fungus growing on cow dung

Scales of a butterfly wing

Mouse hand showing veins


Fossil diatom composed of 20 individual photos

Flow currents generated by an eight-week-old starfish larva

Butterfly scales

Butterfly scales

Scales of a butterfly wing Agrodiaetus thersites Chapman’s Blue maleAnne Gleich/Nikon Small World

Air bubbles in evaporating tequila

Rubber coated with a thin glass

Deep sea crustacean

Black elder tree flower stamen

Cross section of a lily of the valley

Brain matter of a transgenic mouse in 3D

Testis of a fruit fly

Section of the cerebellum in a brain

Surface of embryonic mouse kidney

Crystals of salicin, a painkiller, extracted from Willow tree bark

Caudal gill of a dragonfly larva

Air bubbles formed from melted ascorbic acid crystals

Leg of a water boatman

Poison fangs of a centipede


Section of stem of a plant specimen

Robber fly

Crystals of diclofenac (also called Zorvolex), a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug


Front foot of a male diving beetle

Inside of a humped bladderwort, a freshwater carnivorous plant

Gear-like hind legs of a planthopper nymph

Scales of a butterfly wing underside

Leaves of a liverwort plant

Galls of a mite and fungus on the surface of a scarlet firethorn plant

Ant leg


11 thoughts on “The most incredible microscope images of 2016 reveal a beautiful, hidden universe

  1. Speaking of insects.They say flys only last three days.I no longer kill them as I have watched how intellagent they are.It appears to me that human calculation of Time. Is Only a rough Idea for keeping record of mans mortality..In a physical reality.I dont think time means anything And we only live in a Dot Of reality.There for Humans that die as we call it. just turn in their physical rent a body.and their Dna and intellagence remain unseen in physical forum.So leave the insects alone.They need a turn to.Lol

  2. My thoughts exactly.As I walk around an Ant on the side walk and follow him on his mission. The ant has DNA intellagance and incredable energy and determination. Well it doesnt stop there.Life goes on far beyond the limitations of humans vision.Mankind is no more than a tiny dot re the whole scope of reality.Life is far beyond a

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