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Fall Mystery Image

Fall Mystery Image

Once again, we have used our powerful scanning-laser confocal microscope to reveal an interesting and we think cool image.  So what is it? It is the tip of a flower petal from a bouganvilla plant (Bougainvillea spectabilis Willd) .

These microscopes take many images of a sample at different depths. Each image, or as we call them slice, is saved and later the entire group of images are put back together using a computer. The final image has much more detail than a standard microscope. The colors look different because they are the fluorescent colors from the petal that are seen when scanned with specific colors of laser light. You can learn more about how confocal microscopes work at The Paper Project.

flower

You can actually see the individual cells that make up the surface to the petal and the fine hairs that are also found on the flower. The hairs give the plant a soft fuzzy look and feel. At the right is a picture of the entire flower. The gray square in the upper left corner shows you where the image was taken. You can just barely see the fine hairs in this picture. Notice the difference between the fluorescent colors of the flower and the natural colors. 
 

If you are curious, here are some numbers from our list of guesses. 

  • 24% it looked like worms
  • 13 % virus or bacteria
  • 7% a plant or parts of a plant (good guess)
  • 5% it looked like a jellyfish
  • 5% it looked like blood
  • 9% it was part of a shell

This was also a very good image for creative answers. Some of these answers are listed below. 

  • Fire
  • Fancy Ribbon
  • Back of an ant
  • A jellyfish
  • Fancy ribbon
  • Exploding algae cells
  • Velcro
  • Bugs with grass growing on them
  • Student's brain magnified 10,000,000 times
  • Worms I found in y cafeteria hamburger today
  • A piece of stained glass
  • Medusa's hair
To download a computer wallpaper of this image, right click on this link or image and save it to your computer.

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Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.