Macro or micro? Satellite imagery and electron micrographs test your sense of scale.

close up of dragonfly wing

You might be curious, is this something macroscopic or microscopic? It’s actually the wing of a green darner dragonfly, as seen through a scanning electron microscope. Image by Paul Kelly.


When Stephen Young and Paul Kelly, two Salem State University professors noticed similar patterns in both satellite imagery and scanning electron micrographs, they created over 50 images that test your sense of scale.

Smithsonian.com, where you can view the images online, reports:

“I saw some similar patterns there,” says Young. As a joke, last year, he put a landscape image on Kelly’s door. The biologist mistook it for an electron microscope image that his office mate had created, which got the two talking and comparing imagery. “We found that we had this similar interest in understanding scale and how people perceive it,” Young explained.

Test your sense of scale with these images and be sure to check out our Size & Scale galleries and Virtual Microscopy demonstrations for another way of understanding size and scale through microscopy.