Modern biological microscopy depends heavily on the development of fluorescent probes for specific structures within a cell. In contrast to normal transilluminated light microscopy, in fluorescence microscopy the sample is illuminated through the objective lens with a narrow set of wavelengths of light. This light interacts with fluorophores in the sample which then emit light of a longer wavelength. It is this emitted light which makes up the image.
Since the mid 20th century chemical fluorescent stains, such as DAPI which binds to DNA, have been used to label specific structures within the cell. More recent developments include immunofluorescence, which uses fluorescently labelled antibodies to recognise specific proteins within a sample, and fluorescent proteins like GFP which a live cell can express making it fluorescent.