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Nano GigaPan offers panoramic views of microscopic worlds

A GigaPan robotic platform for creating images is hooked up to a scanning electron microscope at NASA, giving a close look at the ultra-small.

GigaPan panoramas are known for the dynamic images they produce, which can provide a unique and detailed view of an environment, with the ability to pan and zoom across a wide field of view.

Traditionally, the technology has been used to capture panoramic images of wide open spaces. But now it's being used on a much smaller scale. The original GigaPan camera technology was developed as part of the Global Connection Project, a joint endeavor of Carnegie Mellon University, NASA, Google, and National Geographic, as a novel way for people to view the world. In recent years, Jay Longson, a researcher at NASA Ames Research Center, has applied the same technology to the microscopic world, developing the Nano GigaPan.

Longson modified a regular GigaPan to control a Hitachi scanning electron microscope, an electron microscope that images sample surfaces by scanning it with a high-energy beam of electrons. These electrons, which interact with the atoms of the sample, provide information on the sample's surface topography and composition, resulting in a unique view of the nano world.

You can interact with each of the images below to zoom in pan across the image for an extreme detailed look at their subjects.

This ant from Madagascar, named Eutetramorium mocquerysi, has been magnified more than 400x using a scanning electron microscope. Credit: Molly Gibson

Look at this one closely. The head on the left is actually that of a fly being consumed by an ant (whose body takes up the majority of the image). Magnified 400x, this Nano GigaPan image is composed of 288 pictures taken with the scanning electron microscope. Credit: Molly Gibson

This tiny parasitic wasp has been magnified 1,000x using the scanning electron microscope. Credit: Molly Gibson

A piece of driftwood from the Northern California coast, magnified 300x. Credit: Molly Gibson

An ant, named Linepithema humile, magnified under the scanning electron microscope. Credit: Molly Gibson