Science as Art: A Gallery

Meteorite Pop Art


(Image credit: © AMNH/D. Ebel)

Scientists use X-rays, dyes, fancy microscopes and other tools to see things we can't capture with our naked eyes. But these tools aren't just good for science, they can make art. An exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History explores the beauty in scientific imaging. These pictures illustrate the chemical composition of four meteorites, which was detected by scanning them with a beam of electrons. Red represents magnesium, green is calcium, and blue is aluminum.

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Tibetan Artifact Scan DO NOT REPUBLISH

(Image credit: © AMNH/J. Levinson and K. Knauer)

Museum conservators use X-rays to investigate the condition of artifacts, including this wooden Tibetan deity figure. The scan revealed previous repairs as well as ritualistic objects placed within a cavity inside the body.

No Dissection Needed

Madagascar cichlid DO NOT REPUBLISH

(Image credit: © AMNH/J. Sparks)

The bones and cartilage in this Madagascar cichlid fish, which was still whole when the image was made, stand out sharply thanks to red and blue dye, as well as other chemicals that rendered the rest of the fish's body transparent.

Spook Alley Scorpions

Scorpions Fluorsence DO NOT REPUBLISH

(Image credit: © AMNH\L. Prendini and S. Thurston)

Under ultraviolet light, these scorpions glow naturally. A museum arachnologist takes advantage of this trait to identify differences among the species shown.

Up Close And Personal

Shore Bug Genitalia DO NOT REPUBLISH

(Image credit: © AMNH/R. Schuh)

Close-ups of bugs' private parts, like the male genitalia of a Peruvian shore bug, help scientists identify the species to which they belong. This image was made with a scanning electron microscope, which sweeps a beam of electrons (negatively charged particles in atoms) across the sample’s surface.

Fluorescent Coral

Fluorescent Staghorn Coral DO NOT REPUBLISH

(Image credit: © AMNH/D. Gruber)

This staghorn coral contains fluorescent molecules that absorb light from an external source — in this case, the sun — and then emit light at a different wavelength. Museum zoologist David Gruber takes advantage of this to take close-up images of corals. These form part of his research into the patterns and function of fluorescent proteins. Some of these proteins have been co-opted as important tools in biomedical research.

Bacteria in Leeches

Bacteria in leeches DO NOT REPUBLISH

(Image credit: © AMNH/S. Perkins)

Scientists used special DNA to label the bacterial symbionts living within leeches in order to see them under a microscope.

Armadillo Lizard

CT Scan Armadillo Lizard DO NOT REPUBLISH

(Image credit: ©AMNH/E. Stanley)

This portrait of an armadillo lizard, captured by the X-rays of a CT scanner, shows the animal's bony plates protecting its body.

Volcanic Cross Section

Volcanic Craters DO NOT REPUBLISH

(Image credit: © AMNH/J. Webster)

This cross section of two volcanic craters on Jan Mayen Island in the North Atlantic Ocean was revealed when a massive amount of rock fell into the ocean. The reddish color, intensified in the photo through image processing, indicates age-old deposits of volcanic rocks containing oxidized iron.

Discovering a Star

scientific imaging, science and art, artistic images, CT scan, American Museum of Natural History, armadillo lizard, interstellar gas, fluorescence, Picturing Science, imaging technologies, microscope, x-rays, Alcor B Star Discovered DO NOT REPUBLISH

(Image credit: © AMNH/B. Oppenheimer, D. Brenner)

Astrophysicists discovered a star in the Big Dipper with the help of advances in a technique called coronagraphy. With it, bright light from a star can be blocked out better than ever before, so that faint nearby objects can be seen. As a result, the scientists determined that a faint red dwarf, now known as Alcor B, orbits the brighter, previously known Alcor A in the Big Dipper's handle. Alcor B is visible below and to the right within Alcor A's glow.

Wynne Parry
Wynne was a reporter at The Stamford Advocate. She has interned at Discover magazine and has freelanced for The New York Times and Scientific American's web site. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Utah.