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Ordinary camera used to capture atom in prize-winning photograph
15 February 2018, 06:51 | Edward Lowe
Image credit DAVID NADLINGER EPSRC
However, it is a long exposure shot, which means that the atom is still very faint for naked eyes to pick up without proper equipment even when all the laser light is present.
Two metal electrodes, two millimetres apart, held the strontium nearly motionless in a strong electric field as it was illuminated with a blue-violet-coloured laser.
Nadlinger took the photo by peering through a window of the ion trap's ultra-high vacuum chamber.
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"When I set off to the lab with camera and tripods one quiet Sunday afternoon", he said, "I was rewarded with this particular picture of a small, pale blue dot".
The awesome image, captured by Oxford University physics PhD student David Nadlinger, has won the grand prize in a science photography competition organized by the UK's Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council.
Nadlinger used extension tubes, lens accessories that can increase the focal length of a lens and is often used for extreme close-up photography.
"It's exciting to find a picture that resonates with other people that shows what I spend my days and nights working on", he said.
An incredible award-winning photo reveals what a lone atom trapped in a magnetic field would look like to the naked eye. These atomic ions could play a pivotal role in furthering the research in quantum physics.
The implication is that though something is incredibly small, it can still have incredible significance: in Nadlinger's work, ions like the one in the picture may become the building blocks of quantum computing, the next big leap in human technology, while the tiny speck in NASA's photo represents the entirety of life on Earth. The photo won the first place in the "weird and wonderful" category. This two-part entry featured a robotic hand and arm taking a selfie with a selfie stick and a mobile phone, along with the selfie photograph itself.
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