Gigapixel images are usually used to capture tiny details in expansive scenes, but scientists in the Netherlands recently created one that shows microscopic details in a tiny subject. Using a technique called virtual nanoscopy (a new relative of microscopy?), the researchers created a massive 281-gigapixel image of a 1.5-millimeter-long zebrafish embryo.
The image allows the scientists to zoom into the embryo as if they were using Google Earth, going from the big picture of biological tissues down into the world of subcellular structures.
The technique will be a huge help to people using electron microscopy to study cells. While electron microscopy has long provided amazingly detailed images, the fact that it can only capture a tiny portion of a cell makes it difficult for researchers to understand how the things they see related to the cell as a whole. Having a zoom-able gigapixel image will allow them to freely navigate across different areas and magnifications.
26,000 individual nanometer photos were stitched together to create the zebrafish image seen above. Here’s a look at its different zoom levels:
Want to explore the image Google Earth-style? You can find it displayed in a gigapixel browser here.