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Chromosomes aren't always visible, because they usually sit uncoiled, in pairs, as loose strands called chromatin.
Under normal circumstances chromosomes are not visible because they are too tiny to be seen by the human eye. Much like bacteria are to tiny to be seen. But when a cell starts to divide the chromosomes will condense because they need to be able to cope with large mechanical forces dragging them into 2 different daughter cells. This causes the chromosomes to become much denser than when the cell is not dividing and they will become visible. You could compare this to sweeping together a lot of bacteria to make a visible glob.