This dazzling image looks like an orange sun blazing in an alien sky, but it's actually a micrograph of in-vitro fertilization, showing the moment at which the sperm penetrates the egg's membrane. It's just one of many award-winning science images.

The above image, by Spike Walker, was one of the winners of the 2009 Wellcome Image Awards, announced yesterday in England. Last year's winners blew us away, but if anything, this years' are even more spectacular. Many of them play to our weakness for beautiful microscopy images. Here are our absolute favorites — more images at the link. [Wellcome Image Awards]

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Microparticle drug delivery by Annie Cavaugh and Dave McCarthy: A synthetic drug coated with co-polymers. Scanning electron micrograph.


Villi in the small intestine. Multiphoton fluorescent micrograph by Paul Appleton.

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Capillary network. Light micrograph by Spike Walker.

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Mouse liver. Scanning electron micrograph by Jackie Lewin.

Lung cancer cell. Scanning electron micrograph by Anne Weston, London Research Institute, Cancer Research, UK.

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Summer plankton. Light micrograph by Spike Walker.