Science and art have converged again this year at the microscopic level for the annual Nikon Small World 2010 photomicrography competition. Participants submitted images of luminous specimens taken using some form of light microscopy—including phase contrast, polarized light, fluorescence, interference contrast, dark-field, confocal, deconvolution and mixed techniques.

That we can see such tiny things in brilliant detail is a triumph of science and engineering. But to have a chance at taking home the prize of $3,000 toward the purchase of Nikon equipment, Small World contestants must produce triumphant pieces of artwork as well. As the competition Web site makes clear: "A good photomicrograph is also an image whose structure, color, composition, and content is an object of beauty, open to several levels of comprehension and appreciation."

Here's a look at the winners of the 36th annual Nikon Small World competition

Entries are judged according to their "originality, informational content, technical proficiency and visual impact." This year’s panel of judges—Jeremy A. Kaplan, science and technology editor for, Betsy Mason, science editor at, Alison North, director of The Rockefeller University’s Bio-imaging Resource Center, and Shirley A. Owens from the Center for Advanced Microscopy at Michigan State University—has picked their top 20 images, and the results were released October 13.

Highlights include shots of a mosquito heart, crystallized soy sauce, HeLa cells expressing green fluorescent protein, and a rat retina.

Click here to view a slide show of the 2009 Winners and here to view a slide show of the 2008 winners.