The glow of science

From gaseous jets shooting out the center of supermassive black holes to fluorescent tags elucidating the intricacies of the brain, science has a close relationship with light. As a multi-purpose tool, light can reveal hidden functions, magnify areas of interest, provide a means of measurement and trigger activity.

Often the union of light and science also gives us beautiful images, which, to the untrained eye, can appear strange, magical - and downright mysterious. Below are glowing works of art that each represent different areas of research from Stanford University.

But what exactly are we looking at?

What is it?

Image credit: Anne Vatén


A view through a microscope of a small flowering plant - specifically, a young, wild-type  Arabidopsis thaliana seedling - with fluorescent protein marking the plasma membrane, as seen through a microscope.

More on the science behind this image in the story  "Hormones help plants adjust their ventilation” .

Image credit: Anne Vatén

A view through a microscope of a small flowering plant - specifically, a young, wild-type  Arabidopsis thaliana seedling - with fluorescent protein marking the plasma membrane, as seen through a microscope.

More on the science behind this image in the story  "Hormones help plants adjust their ventilation” .

Image credit: Jing Ren

A 3D rendering of the serotonin system in the left hemisphere of a mouse brain reveals two groups of serotonin neurons that project to either cortical regions (blue) or subcortical regions (green) while rarely crossing into the other’s domain.

More on the science behind this image in the story  "A new map of the brain’s serotonin system” .

Image credit: Jing Ren

A 3D rendering of the serotonin system in the left hemisphere of a mouse brain reveals two groups of serotonin neurons that project to either cortical regions (blue) or subcortical regions (green) while rarely crossing into the other’s domain.

More on the science behind this image in the story  "A new map of the brain’s serotonin system” .

Image credit: Jianghong Rao


Researchers applied the fluorescent probe to a sputum sample collected from a tuberculosis-positive patient. The bright green shows where there is live TB.

More on the science behind this image in the story  "New imaging technique can sport tuberculosis infection in an hour” .

Image credit: Jianghong Rao

Researchers applied the fluorescent probe to a sputum sample collected from a tuberculosis-positive patient. The bright green shows where there is live TB.

More on the science behind this image in the story  "New imaging technique can sport tuberculosis infection in an hour” .

Image credit: Courtesy of Amanda Janesick and Stanford Otolaryngology Imaging Core Facility

A transverse section through the middle of an embryonic (day 20) chicken cochlea shows neuronal connections to hair cells. The neuronal connections are colored green and red. Hair cell bundles are white. The image was taken at 40X magnification.

More on the science behind this image in the story  "Can we heal deafness by being more like birds?”

Image credit: Courtesy of Amanda Janesick and Stanford Otolaryngology Imaging Core Facility

A transverse section through the middle of an embryonic (day 20) chicken cochlea shows neuronal connections to hair cells. The neuronal connections are colored green and red. Hair cell bundles are white. The image was taken at 40X magnification.

More on the science behind this image in the story  "Can we heal deafness by being more like birds?”

Image credit: Nina Brooks


Clip from a video of a parrotlet in flight. When the bird flies through this specially patterned light, its body acts like a projector screen. An algorithm then matches the deformed pattern on the bird to the original projected pattern to produce a detailed 3D reconstruction of how the bird moved through the light field.

More on the science behind this image in the story  "New method for recording bird flight in 3D” .

Image credit: Nina Brooks

Clip from a video of a parrotlet in flight. When the bird flies through this specially patterned light, its body acts like a projector screen. An algorithm then matches the deformed pattern on the bird to the original projected pattern to produce a detailed 3D reconstruction of how the bird moved through the light field.

More on the science behind this image in the story  "New method for recording bird flight in 3D” .

Image credit: Benjamin Grewe

Neurons from the amygdala in this mouse brain slice have been stained so that researchers could measure the activity of the neurons.

More on the science behind this image in the story  "Stanford scientists study Pavlovian conditioning in neural networks” .

Image credit: Benjamin Grewe

Neurons from the amygdala in this mouse brain slice have been stained so that researchers could measure the activity of the neurons.

More on the science behind this image in the story  "Stanford scientists study Pavlovian conditioning in neural networks” .

Image credit: Mark Wagner


Stanford researchers have found a previously unknown, cognitive role for the cerebellum’s granule cells, which show up as green in this image.

More on the science behind this image in the story  "Scientists find a previously unknown role for the cerebellum” .

Image credit: Mark Wagner

Stanford researchers have found a previously unknown, cognitive role for the cerebellum’s granule cells, which show up as green in this image.

More on the science behind this image in the story  "Scientists find a previously unknown role for the cerebellum” .

Image credit: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

This image created by physicists at Stanford’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory illustrates how supermassive black holes at the center of galaxy clusters could heat intergalactic gas, preventing it from cooling and forming stars.

More on the science behind this image in the story  "Stanford researchers help to explain how stars are born, cosmic structures evolve” .

Image credit: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

This image created by physicists at Stanford’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory illustrates how supermassive black holes at the center of galaxy clusters could heat intergalactic gas, preventing it from cooling and forming stars.

More on the science behind this image in the story  "Stanford researchers help to explain how stars are born, cosmic structures evolve” .

Image credit: Y. Hezaveh; ALMA


Composite image of the gravitational lens SDP.81 showing the distorted image of the more distant galaxy (red arcs) and the nearby lensing galaxy (blue center object). By analyzing the distortions in the ring, astronomers have determined that a dark dwarf galaxy (data indicated by white dot near left lower arc segment) is lurking nearly 4 billion light-years away.

More on the science behind this image in the story  "Stanford physicists help discover hidden dwarf galaxy” .

Image credit: Y. Hezaveh; ALMA

Composite image of the gravitational lens SDP.81 showing the distorted image of the more distant galaxy (red arcs) and the nearby lensing galaxy (blue center object). By analyzing the distortions in the ring, astronomers have determined that a dark dwarf galaxy (data indicated by white dot near left lower arc segment) is lurking nearly 4 billion light-years away.

More on the science behind this image in the story  "Stanford physicists help discover hidden dwarf galaxy” .


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