15 incredible microscope images reveal a beautiful, hidden universe

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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.

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 15 of the finalists below — and cast a vote for your favorite.

See our favorites here:

Microscopic images from Nikon Small World Contest 2016
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Microscopic images from Nikon Small World Contest 2016

A butterfly proboscis.

Photo Credit: Jochen Schroeder/Nikon Small World

Zooplankton carefully arranged by hand in Victorian style.

Photo Credit: Stefano Barone/Nikon Small World

Front foot of a male diving beetle. 

Photo Credit: Igor Siwanowicz/Nikon Small World

Espresso coffee crystals.

Photo Credit: Vin Kitayama and Sanae Kitayama/Nikon Small World

Eyes of a jumping spider.

Photo Credit:Yousef Al Habshi/Nikon Small World

Leaves of a lesser club moss.

Photo Credit: David Maitland/Nikon Small World

Dahlia flower section.

Photo Credit: Harold Taylor/Nikon Small World

Green bottle fly.

Photo Credit: Erno Endre Gergley/Nikon Small World

Curvepod fumewort seed.

Photo Credit: David Millard/Nikon Small World

Wildflower stamens.

Photo Credit: Samuel Silberman/Nikon Small World

Mouse retina, laid flat.

Photo Credit: Keunyoung Kim/Nikon Small World


Photo Credit: Teresa Zgoda/Nikon Small World

Robber fly.

Photo Credit: Jan Rosenboom/Nikon Small World

Hippocampal neurons.

Photo Credit: Wutian Wu/Nikon Small World

Tail of a small shrimp.

Photo Credit: Charles Krebs/Nikon Small World


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