Tomato seeds are hairy! This incredible supernova-like inferno of reddish hairs is actually thousands of trichomes covering the outside of a seed from the common tomato (Solanum lycopersicum). Trichomes secrete a clear, mucusy membrane at the edge of the seed, which contains potent alkaloids that help the plant adapt to excessive light, pathogen attacks, repel insects, and give the tomato fruit its signature taste. If you've ever brushed a tomato plant, you've smelled the incredible, musky resins produced inside these hairy, natural biochemical factories. It's truly intoxicating.
Robert Rock Belliveau took this incredible photo of a tomato seed last April. (He's a retired anatomic pathologist, which may help explain why he has a polarizing microscope.) It was an honorable mention in the International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge, a showcase of amazing visualizations hosted by the National Science Foundation and Science magazine. You can view the entire series here. It goes to show how the scientific world that we cannot see is equally as fascinating as the observable world, and when those two worlds collide, the results can truly inspire a sense of wonder.
Photo: Robert Rock Belliveau via Science magazine.