Ever wonder what an atom looks like? These building blocks of ordinary matter are a million times smaller than a strand of hair, making them impossible to see, even under a microscope. That is, until now. David Nadlinger, a Ph.D. student in University of Oxford Department of Physics, just won the top prize at the science photography competition organized by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for his groundbreaking image of an atom.
Titled Single Atom in an Ion Trap, Nadlinger’s photograph shows a single positively-charged strontium atom suspended in an electric field between two metal electrodes. For scale, the two needle tips it dances in between are just two millimeters apart. A close-up crop of the image lets us see this small dot of light, and is an incredibly unique way to see this tiny particle.