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Amazing Crystal Formation Revealed in Microphotograph

Sulfosalicylic Acid Crystal Formation
This image shows sulfosalicylic acid crystal formation as seen magnified 200 times using polarized light. The photo was taken by Thomas Balla of Fort Collins, Colo., and received honorable mention at Nikon's 2013 Small World microphotography competition. (Image credit: Thomas Balla)

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.

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Nina Sen
Nina Sen is a frequent contributor to Live Science’s Life’s Little Mysteries series: an exploration and explanation of our world’s phenomena, both natural and man-made. She also writes astronomy photo stories for Live Science's sister site Space.com.