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Single Atom Photo a Prize Winner

Single Atom Photo a Prize Winner
(David Nadlinger/University of Oxford)

By    |   Wednesday, 14 February 2018 12:20 PM

A single atom photo was the prize winner of a U.K. science photography competition, drawing accolades for the graduate student who captured the sight with an ordinary camera.

The image was snapped by David Nadlinger from the University of Oxford and shows a glowing strontium atom suspended in motion by two electrodes set two millimeters apart, Quartz noted.

According to the Independent, the photo beat more than 100 entries to receive top honors at a national science photography competition organized by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

What makes this image so breath-taking is that it was taken with an ordinary camera set to a long exposure.

A strontium atom has a radii of around 215 billionths of a millimeter, New Scientist noted, so to capture such a rare sight is impressive.

EPSRC explained that this was made possible by using a laser of the right blue-violet color to illuminate the atom, which then absorbed and re-emitted the light particles just long enough to be captured by camera.

The intricate setup was housed inside an ultra-high vacuum chamber and Nadlinger took the photo through the window of the machinery, Science Alert said.

"The idea of being able to see a single atom with the naked eye had struck me as a wonderfully direct and visceral bridge between the miniscule quantum world and our macroscopic reality," Nadlinger said in a statement about the award. "A back-of-the-envelope calculation showed the numbers to be on my side, and when I set off to the lab with camera and tripods one quiet Sunday afternoon, I was rewarded with this particular picture of a small, pale blue dot."

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An image of a single, floating atom photographed by a graduate student with an ordinary camera is the prize winner of a prestigious U.K. competition.
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Wednesday, 14 February 2018 12:20 PM
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