Although the bursts of rainbow colours in this photograph are mesmerising, microbes fight for their lives in the background.
Chemist Michael P Zach of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, snapped this image of a salt sample he collected in a hot, arid valley near Death Valley National Park in California. He crushed the salt, placed it under a microscope slide and added a drop of water. Suddenly a slew of microbes came to life as the salt crystals dissolved. Then when the water started evaporating, he took a picture. The colours come from light passing through the growing crystals, which act like prisms.
This image was tied for honourable mention in the photography category of the 2009 Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge, a contest co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) along with the journal Science, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Image credit: Michael P Zach, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point