Have You Ever Seen an Atom? Now You Have
Atoms are the basic units of matter. According to Northwestern University, everything in the cosmos, excluding energy, is formed of matter, hence atoms make up everything in the universe. Because atoms were originally assumed to be the smallest entities in the universe and could not be separated, the term “atom” derives from the Greek word for indivisible. We now know that atoms are made up of three subatomic particles: protons, neutrons, and electrons, which are made up of even smaller particles called quarks.
After the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago, atoms were formed. As the hot, dense new cosmos cooled, conditions became suitable for the formation of quarks and electrons. Quarks merged to make protons and neutrons, which then combined to form nuclei. According to CERN, all of this occurred within the first few minutes of the universe’s existence.
It took 380,000 years for the universe to cool enough for the electrons to slow down enough for the nuclei to capture them and form the first atoms. According to Jefferson Lab, the first atoms were mostly hydrogen and helium, which are still the most plentiful elements in the universe. Gravity eventually forced clouds of gas to consolidate and form stars, and heavier atoms were (and still are) generated within the stars and expelled into space when the star exploded (supernova).
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles have developed a method for producing astonishingly precise three-dimensional reconstructions of platinum nanoparticles at the atomic level.
These are used to look into microscopic structural anomalies called dislocations. The research paper can be found here. In the video below, you may learn more about how humans can view the atom.
Reference(s): Peer-Reviewed Research Article