Researchers capture shadow cast by a single atom

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Image uploaded from a quicklink Capturing an image of an atom is difficult enough, but an atom's shadow? Considering that the wavelengths of visible light dwarf the size of atoms by orders of magnitude, one might think that it wouldn't even be possible for an atom to cast a shadow. Yet researchers at Griffith University in Australia have done both with a high-precision laser and sensor, producing a striking silhouette of a single ytterbium atom. Professor Dave Kielpinski of Griffith's Center for Quantum Dynamics explained the significance of the feat in a news release accompanying the publication of their paper: "We have reached the extreme limit of microscopy. You may notice that in the image itself, there are concentric rings around the central shadow. These are not electron orbitals, like those you might see in a diagram of the same atom; it's just a normal side effect of how light travels around such a tiny object.

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