Nikon, one of the leading manufacturers of microscopes, also hosts an annual microscopy competition (and you can use any company's microscopes to enter). We've shared some of our favorite images with you in years past, since they've been every bit as artistic as good photography and, in many cases, reveal important details about the natural world—details that we'd otherwise never be able to appreciate.

Most people will only get exposed to microscopy during high school biology, which is typically the realm of static slices of long-dead organisms, permanently pressed onto a glass side. But history's first use of a microscope back in the 1600s involved watching living microbes flitting across the field of view. Microscopy doesn't have to be static; in fact, the element of time can be incredibly informative.

And advancements in technology mean that we can do some amazing things with living samples, including labelling them in a rainbow of fluorescent colors, automating long time-lapse recordings, and more. And movies can tell us things that wouldn't be possible to learn otherwise, like the process by which a material deforms and breaks, the coordination of cell divisions and migrations that assemble an embryo, and more.

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