What might appear to some as Superman's secret icy sanctuary, the "Fortress of Solitude," is actually a microphotograph of sulfosalicylic acid crystal formation.
Thomas Balla of Fort Collins, Colo., captured this image magnified 200 times using polarized light, which is a contrast-enhancing technique.
Sulfosalicylic acid, also called salicylsulfonic acid, is a chemical used in medicine in tests for protein in urine and cerebrospinal fluid. A protein urine test measures the amount of protein, such as albumin, in a sample and is often used as a test for kidney disease. Normally, urine shouldn't have much protein as the kidneys reabsorb the material back into the bloodstream.
The chemical works by causing dissolved proteins, which can't all be seen by the naked eye, to solidify. These are then measured by the turbidity, or cloudiness of the fluid.
The stunning photo received an honorable mention at Nikon's 2013 Small World microphotography competition.