Microscopes help us see objects so small, that they would otherwise be unseen by the human eye. However, they are very delicate, and will often break if misused or dropped. Proper use of a microscope is paramount to ensure good results and to maintain its condition. Proper care can greatly extend the life of the microscope and save the owner money.
Setting Up a Slide
The first thing you need is a slide with a specimen on it. Put a drop of water on your specimen while it is on the slide, then put a cover slip on top on the specimen. Do not drop the cover directly on top of the slide, or you will end up with bubbles under the cover slip. Place one edge of the cover slip on one side of the specimen, and then lower the other side over the specimen.
Finding the Specimen
Place the slide on the stage of the microscope, securing the slide with the clips. Use the lowest objective, which is the lens farthest away from the slide, to find the specimen. Always start with this magnification. Once you have found the specimen, center it by moving the slide very slowly. If you want your specimen to move down toward the center, you have to move the slide up. Same with right and left: You have to move the slide the opposite direction you want your specimen to go. Once you have found and centered your specimen, you can begin to magnify it.
Magnifying the Specimen
Once you have centered the specimen, change the objective to medium and attempt to center it once again. If you lose sight of the objective, you will have to go back to low power and find it again. If you have found your objective on medium power, try limiting the amount of light of the microscope so you can more easily see the details of the specimen. Live specimens do not like light, so with less light, you are often more successful in finding the specimen. If you decide to go to high power, center the objective and switch again. Do not use the coarse focus adjustment on high power, because the lens should barely clear the slide. If you do use the coarse focus, you may end up damaging the lens, specimen and slide. This should not be a huge issue, since scientists frequently use either the lower or medium objectives.
About the Author
Jason Gabriel is a technical writer with a graduate degree from the University of Alabama. His work has been recognized and published by universities, businesses and the government. Gabriel was the winner of the Arizona Statehood Writing Contest.
Image courtesy of Theresa Knott; Wikimedia Commons