first_imgAs humans with inherently imperfect vision we know that everything looks different up close. What we might not realize, or at least think about very often, is that the closer you look, the most different things get. The above image is a perfect example, it might seem like some sort of strange papercraft, or maybe a clever movie set, but the truth is much different. This is a picture of a spider’s skin at 12,000x magnification.You don’t pull off 12,000x with a DSLR and a stack of carefully placed macro lenses, you need special equipment and serious expertise. Case in point, this image was taken by Maria Carbajo, of the Electron Microscopy Unit of the University of Extremadura (it’s in Spain) using a Quanta 3D FEG electron microscope. The price for one of these bad boys is hard to track down but it’s one of those things that’s “affordable” but only in comparison to the budget of a major university or science-focused organization. (From the best I can tell, a solid used unit will run you about $175,000. [Only suckers buy retail.])The spider skin image was taken for an electron microscopy image contest held by FEI, the company that makes the Quanta 3D DualBeam, as well as other electron microscope/nanotech tools.The Quanta 3D FEG is an SEM (scanning electron microscope), specifically one that uses a field emission gun (FEG) in order to produce an electron stream that is as small as possible, and thus maximizing image quality. Some of these models feature up to 1,000,000x magnification so, amusingly enough, 12,000x is pretty pedestrian under the circumstances. (Note: this Quanta model is actually capable of 1280 kX magnification.) At this level the resolution of the electron microscope becomes a pretty important metric, so you might want your FEG-SEM to be capable of something like 3nm while operating at 1kV.As for the resulting image, as you can see, it’s amazing. The striations on the skin are unreal and those huge columns are actually hairs and their roots. FEI identified the small spherical structures as pollen, but some scientifically-inclined commenters noted that they are too small. It’s more likely that they are brochosomes, perhaps leftover from a grasshopper dinner.last_img read more