Right now I’m going crazy over these images I found in physicsforums.com which are actual images of atoms.
To capture the image of an atom, scientists use a Scanning-tunnelling microscope, which is explained thusly:
The STM is based on the concept of quantum tunneling. When a conducting tip is brought very near to the surface to be examined, a bias (voltage difference) applied between the two can allow electrons to tunnel through the vacuum between them. The resulting tunneling current is a function of tipposition, applied voltage, and the local density of states (LDOS) of the sample. Information is acquired by monitoring the current as the tip’s position scans across the surface, and is usually displayed in image form. STM can be a challenging technique, as it requires extremely clean and stable surfaces, sharp tips, excellent vibration control, and sophisticated electronics.
OK, that parts not important. What is important is that the images taken with the STM are at a resolution considered to be 0.1 nanometers lateral resolution and 0.01 nm depth resolution. This is small enough so that atoms can be imaged and manipulated. It’s really incredible. You can find more by clicking here.