If you're a fan of Google Earth, but are more interested in the fine details of molecular biology rather than the large-scale grandeur of our planet, a group of researchers have just published a rather stunning image using a technique known as "virtual nanoscopy." This monstrous image of a 1.5 millimeter zebrafish embryo is comprised of more than 26,000 unique images which add up to a 281-gigapixel image at 16 million pixels per inch. What this mean to viewers of this composite is that you can zoom in to an almost unprecedented level — the embryo truly feels like a planet that you can zoom into and view minute details with sharpness and clarity intact the whole way. This image has been a long time in the works — the team behind it submitted their research back in January, with it being accepted for publication back in late January. The full image has just been unveiled this week, with more details coming in the Journal of Cellular Biology.
The actual technique of capturing cellular structures through electron microscopy isn't new; the virtual nanoscopy technique used by scientists from Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands is the real advance here. Previously, high-resolution cellular images were possible, but they only captured a tiny portion of the entire organism — now researchers can see both the full scope of the subject as well as zoom in on the minute details. The resulting images are of such a high resolution that the Journal of Cell Biology had to completely revamp its DataViewer tool that has published cellular imagery since 2008. Unfortunately, the viewer appears to be struggling at the moment, with the giant image not loading reliably, but you can try and access it right here.