This year’s best science photos will dazzle your eyeballs and melt your brain

3D printing, medical scanners, and computer generated imagery may appear at first to have nothing in common with paintbrushes, cameras, and sculpting tools — that is, until you see the winning shots from the 20th annual Wellcome Image Awards. The contest celebrates the best science images from around the globe, from the more traditional photographs taken with an actual camera to 3D sculptures lit with a myriad of light to visualize how the brain processes language.

The winning images, announced earlier this month, cover a range of mediums, from microscopes to computer generated imagery (CGI). The contest organizers said the 2017 winners cover a wider range of imaging technology than the contest has ever seen in its two decades of exploring scientific imaging.

The images are often scientifically significant, yet are just as awe-inspiring as a painting — and in fact, this year’s list includes a painting of Nobel laureate and neurobiologist Levi-Montalcini. While the contest includes a number of shots from microscopes and medical scanning, one experiment even dabbled into sociology, turning the Tweets with the hashtag #breastcancer into a stunning visual of how those 140 character (or less) thoughts are connected.

“The Wellcome Image Awards continuously uncovers striking images that open up a world of science often hidden to the naked eye,” said Fergus Walsh, contest judge and BBC medical correspondent. “There is a spectacular array of images here which will draw the public in, make them wonder and make them ask questions about things they’ve never even imagined.”

All 22 winning images were selected over the past year from the Wellcome Image’s picture library by the nine-member judging panel. Wellcome is a global organization currently funding 14,000 researchers worldwide, with ideas from medical advancements to social sciences. The images will be a part of gallery displays across Europe, the UK and Africa.

“It’s now 20 years since the first Wellcome Image Awards and we continue to be surprised and delighted by the range of extraordinary images we receive each year. We are thrilled that they will be displayed across the UK and abroad so that people can come and explore the stories behind these stunning images,” said Catherine Draycott, the head of the Wellcome Images program.