Don't they look like they are dancing down from the clouds to the ground? Look closely and zoom in. They are so intricate and beautiful!
How is a snowflake formed?
It's a simple recipe that includes: Water vapor, subfreezing clouds, and a piece of dust or salt.
When these are all present, water vapor crystallizes around the particle. As it falls to Earth, it grows into six-sided (hexagonal) crystals. Their journey to the ground determines what they look like when they get there. They may pass through clouds with different temperatures and moisture, get moved by wind, or bump into other snowflakes. Some never make it, because they melt or evaporate on their way down. The different conditions a snowflake goes through on its journey designs the pattern it has. Snowflakes might be needles, plates, crystals or columns!
Observe Snowflakes on your own!
See what kinds of snowflakes you can find next time it snows. It's fun! Here's what you need:
1) A small magnifier, about 5X.
2) A dark surface to catch snowflakes. Any dark fabric or dark cardboard will work fine. You have to catch the flakes as they fall; the ones already on the ground are usually a jumbled mess. Make sure the paper or fabric has been in the cold for a while. If it is warm, the snowflakes will melt.
3) A cold day. Not every snowflake brings beautiful snowflakes. Some days, especially warm days, you may not see much of anything interesting. Keep trying, though. Nice crystals are out there if you have some patience. You never know what you might find!
William "Snowflake" Bentley, a farmer, was the first person to photograph a single snowflake in 1885. He photographed more than 5,000 crystals in his time and published a book of some 2,400 of those images. He noticed patterns based on weather and snowflake form that is called the Snowflake Thermometer.
Mr. Bentley had lots of equipment to set-up to photograph a snowflake, but with digital cameras today, it is a lot easier. The next time it snows, capture these natural beauties on your camera and share them with others!