The 20 most incredible microscope photos of the year

Carnivorous plant tentaclesJose Almodovar/Nikon Small WorldTentacles of a carnivorous plant, one of 20 winners in the 2015 Nikon Small World microscope photography contest.

Microscopes can see what no human eyes can, but the incredible views are often limited to the person behind the lens.

Paired with a camera and a lot of skill, however, photographers can capture this tiny universe and bring it to all of us.

Each year the Nikon Small World contest awards the best microscope images taken by amateur and professional photographers.

I helped judge the 40th competition in 2014, and it wasn’t easy. We pored over more than 1,200 images from 79 countries before choosing 20 winners based on quality, uniqueness, and difficulty.

This year looked even harder. Judges had to pick 20 top photos out more than 2,000 entries submitted from 83 countries. The finalists, which we featured last week, included stunning views of plnat tentacles, bee stingers, tadpole brains, moth wings, seeds, neurons, nanoparticles, a Blu-ray disc, and even part of a cell phone pulled from the muck of a seabed.

Keep scrolling to browse the 20 best microscope images of 2015.

Eye of a honey bee covered in dandelion pollen

Ralph Claus Grimm/Nikon Small World
Magnified 120 times.

Mouse colon (right) colonised with human gut microbes (left)

Kristen Earle, Gabriel Billings, KC Huang, and Justin Sonnenburg/Nikon Small World
Magnified 63 times.

Mouth of a humped bladderwort, a freshwater carnivorous plant

Igor Siwanowicz/Nikon Small World
Magnified 100 times.

Lab-grown bud of a human mammary gland

Daniel H. Miller and Ethan S. Sokol/Nikon Small World
Magnified 100 times.

A live mouse brain's blood vessels (red) showing a glioblastoma tumour (yellow/green)

Giorgio Seano and Rakesh K. Jain/Nikon Small World

Spore capsule of a moss

Henri Koskinen/Nikon Small World

Juvenile starfish

Evan Darling/Nikon Small World
Magnified 10 times.

Nerves and blood vessels in a mouse's ear skin

Tomoko Yamazaki/Nikon Small World
Magnified 10 times.

Young buds of a Arabidopsis flowering plant

Nathanael Prunet/Nikon Small World
Magnified 40 times.

Clam shrimp

Ian Gardiner/Nikon Small World
Magnified 25 times.

Fern sorus at varying stages of maturity

Rogelio Moreno Gill/Nikon Small World
Magnified 20 times.

Sea mullet fish eggs and embryos

Hannah Sheppard-Brennand/Nikon Small World
Magnified 40 times.

Tentacles of a carnivorous plant

Magnified 20 times.

Australian grass seed

Viktor Sykora/Nikon Small World
Magnified 5 times.

A flowering Arabidopsis thaliana plant

Heiti Paves/Nikon Small World
Magnified 20 times.

Feeding rotifers (tiny freshwater animals)

Charles B. Krebs/Nikon Small World
Magnified 50 times.

A black witch-hazel leaf producing crystals to defend against hungry animals

Dr. David Maitland
Magnified 100 times.

Hairyback worm (bottom) next to algae (top right)

Roland Gross/Nikon Small World
Magnified 400 times.

Larva of a horseshoe worm

Richard R. Kirby/Nikon Small World
Magnified 450 times.

Suction cups on a diving beetle foreleg

Giorgio Seano and Rakesh K. Jain/Nikon Small World
Magnified 50 times.

If you enjoyed these microscope photos, browse all of the 2015 Nikon Small World finalists here.

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