Electron Microscope Images of Diatoms by Dr Paul Hargreaves and Faye Darling [Big Picture]

This may look like Salvador Dali’s Mae West Lips Sofa, but it is a colourised scanning electron microscope image of a diatom – a tiny single-celled marine creature invisible to the naked eye.

This may look like Salvador Dali’s Mae West Lips Sofa, but it is a colourised scanning electron microscope image of a diatom – a tiny single-celled marine creature invisible to the naked eye. Diatoms are a type of algae or phytoplankton that typically measure just 0.002 inches across, and are thought to pre-date the dinosaurs.

Oceanographer Dr Paul Hargreaves teamed up with artist Faye Darling to create the stunning works of art. A particle beam of electrons is used to illuminate the tiny organism before a 3D picture is taken. The image is then ‘colourised’ by Mrs Darling using a variety of digital paint programmes.

What started as a hobby has become a part-time occupation for the grandmother of two from Rhode Island, U.S. “It may take me as little as three to four hours to complete one image, but I have worked as long as 25-30 hours on one image,” she said.

“What inspires me is being able to turn rather unusual black and white images and transform them into sparking little gems that make people take notice of them. It also makes me happy to know the Dr. Hargraves uses some of the images to accompany his lectures especially to new students who are just beginning to have an interest in oceanography and marine biology.” [Gal Faye/Flickr via The Telegraph (UK), Daily Mail (UK) and Science Ray]

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