School of Life Sciences | Ask A Biologist

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September Mystery Image

September 1998 Mystery Image

September  Mystery Image
Photo by William Sharp

This is a scanning electron micrograph of a butterfly wing. It was first coated with a very thin layer of gold and then placed in the scanning electron microscope. Any guesses why it was coated with gold before it was put in the microscope?


Congratulations to Jasmine, Linda, Ted, Jessica and Larissa for guessing the correct answer. Also, congratulations to Desert Vista High School for the most guesses.

For those of you that are curious, here are some numbers from our list of guesses.

  • 20% guessed that the image was of fish or or reptile scales.
  • 11% guessed that it was skin.
  • 10% guessed that it was part of a flower or plant.
  • 9% guessed that it was hair.
  • 6% guessed that it was a close-up of a birds wing.

Some of the creative single answers are listed below.

  • An artichoke
  • Aluminum shavings
  • Finger nail clipping collection
  • Chipping paint
  • Tree bark
  • Shingles of the roof of a small house in western Florida
  • This picture is simply 24-plus black and white frogs. They are sticking their tongues through a black and white wall that has holes the size of frog tongues. Either that, or it is all in color, yet the black and white is depicted through black and white film. The frogs might be green, or they could be brown. Some toads are brown. If this is the case, then replace all of the "frogs" with "toads" in this answer.
ant, photo by Alex Wild

It's like having your own microscope! Visit our Zoom Gallery to explore and have fun zooming in and moving around each image.

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.

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ant, photo by Alex Wild

It's like having your own microscope! Visit our Zoom Gallery to explore and have fun zooming in and moving around each image.

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.