Student Question

Can the cell membrane, cell wall, cytoplasm, nucleus, vacuoles, endoplasmic reticulum, mitochondria and chloroplasts be seen under a light microscope?

Expert Answers

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The organelles that are visible with a light microscope often vary based on the type of cell you are observing. For example, is it a plant or animal cell? What kind of plant or animal? A safe general assumption for plant cells is that it is possible to see the cell wall, cell membrane, cytoplasm, central vacuole, and nucleus with a compound light microscope. 
Some cell organelles are often too small to be seen with a compound light microscope. Cell organelles that are usually not visible under a compound light microscope include mitochondria, ribosomes, endoplasmic reticula, and Golgi bodies.
The compound light microscope is a common tool in scientific labs. They are used to magnify small objects so that they can be studied more easily by the human eye. The common classroom light microscope has a magnification of 40x, 100x, and 400x, which means that it has the ability to magnify the image of an object to 40, 100, or 400 times as large as its actual size.  

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