The Eye-Popping Moment When Human Life Begins

This dazzling image looks like an orange sun blazing in an alien sky, but it's actually a micrograph of in-vitro fertilization, showing the moment at which the sperm penetrates the egg's membrane. It's just one of many award-winning science images.

The above image, by Spike Walker, was one of the winners of the 2009 Wellcome Image Awards, announced yesterday in England. Last year's winners blew us away, but if anything, this years' are even more spectacular. Many of them play to our weakness for beautiful microscopy images. Here are our absolute favorites — more images at the link. [Wellcome Image Awards]

The Eye-Popping Moment When Human Life Begins


Microparticle drug delivery by Annie Cavaugh and Dave McCarthy: A synthetic drug coated with co-polymers. Scanning electron micrograph.

The Eye-Popping Moment When Human Life Begins


Villi in the small intestine. Multiphoton fluorescent micrograph by Paul Appleton.

The Eye-Popping Moment When Human Life Begins

Capillary network. Light micrograph by Spike Walker.

The Eye-Popping Moment When Human Life Begins

Mouse liver. Scanning electron micrograph by Jackie Lewin.

The Eye-Popping Moment When Human Life Begins

Lung cancer cell. Scanning electron micrograph by Anne Weston, London Research Institute, Cancer Research, UK.

The Eye-Popping Moment When Human Life Begins

Summer plankton. Light micrograph by Spike Walker.