Wonders of unseen worlds

Browse through the top-rated images of microscopic wonders from the 2013 FEI Image Contest.

Every year, FEI instrument owners are invited to submit their best images of the microscopic world for a chance to showcase their skill, research and creativity. From May to July 2013, a winner was selected by FEI and National Geographic each month as the best in four categories: Around the House, The Natural World, The Human Body and Other Relevant Science. The public was then invited to select a grand prize winner. Here's a look at the top choices - plus some of our favorite submissions, such as this false-color image of an ant at 64x magnification. Mucciolo Antonio
This image of dendritic cells stimulated with adjuvant silicon microparticles, interacting with T cells, was the July winner in "The Human Body" category. Rita Serda
Here's a close-up view of the edge section of generic dental floss, as seen under the microscope. William Mitchell
This image at 20,000x magnification shows a grid used for sample growth and observation through transmission electron microscopy. It was the May winner in the "Other Relevant Science" category. Cyril Guedj
This cross-transverse view of a cigarette filter, showing cellulose acetate fibers, was the May winner in the "Around the House" category. Francisco Rangel
Dandelion pollen is seen at 5,000x magnification. Owen Crankshaw
No, this head lice isn't preparing for the pole vault. It's gripping onto two human hairs, seen through a microscope. It was the May winner in "The Human Body" category. Louwrens Tiedt
This extreme close-up image of a Helichrysum italicum flower with pollen grains was the June winner in the "Natural World" category. Helichrysum iltalicum is also known as the curry plant, because of the strong smell of its leaves. Ricardo Antonelli
The tip of a mechanical pencil is seen at 138x magnification. Daniel Rigler
Green-tinted false arms, also known as pseudopods, arise from a human fibroblast cell to engulf silica microparticles in this photo, selected as the June winner in the "Around the House" category. Rita Serda
This photo of the fracture surface of a snap-off blade after breaking off one of the segments was the June winner in "The Human Body" category. Joern Leuthold
This scanning electron microscope image shows the upper part of the style and stigma from an Arabidopsis flower. Guichan Hou
This photo shows silicon nanowires that were grown on copper foil with gold on top, through a process known as chemical vapor deposition. These nanowires will be used to manufacture anodes for lithium-ion batteries. The extreme close-up can often resemble things at a much greater scale, which led the creator to title this image "Magnetic Field of Earth Perturbed by a Sun Storm."

This image was the June winner in the "Other Relevant Science" category. . Isidoro Ignacio Poveda Barriga
The mouth parts of the aquatic third-stage larva of an Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) are seen at 800x magnification. This image was the July winner in the "Around the House" category. Riccardo Antonelli
This photo of bacterial nanocables that were found in Denmark's Aarhus Bay was the July winner in the "Natural World" category. Jie Song
The rope from a toy guitar is seen at 200x magnification. Maria Carbajo
This photo of Torilis arvensis, more commonly known as spreading hedge parsley, was the July winner in the "Other Relevant Science" category.

The plants grow up to 3 feet in height with tiny flowers clustered in small flat-topped umbels. The fruit of the plant, also known as the schizocarp, is covered with Velcro-like appendages that attach to clothing and fur, allowing them to hitch a ride to new terrain. Pat Kysar
A single strand of a woman's hair is seen at 4,000x magnification. Francisco Rangel
An Acacia dealbata (yellow mimosa) flower is shown about to open in this image, selected by popular vote as the grand prize winner in the 2013 FEI Image Contest. Marcos Rosado says he picked the bloom from a tree in his parents' garden. "It seemed to have some beautiful yellow spots into it, so I decided to take it and have a look at it in the microscope. What I discovered is that it, as I supposed, was an Acacia Dealbata flower about to open."

More 2013 FEI Image Contest submissions Marcos Rosado