The beauty of a snowflake

On a snowy day, enjoying the precipitation in your backyard, let a few snow fractals settle on your hand. If you examine them closely, you might observe that no two snowflakes are of the same shape.

Photo by Nadine Rupprecht on Unsplash

A snowflake is formed when an extremely cold water droplet condenses onto dust or pollen grain, creating an icy crystal. Owing to water’s molecular structure, this crystal arranges itself to satisfy the internal symmetrical order of a water molecule forming a 6-sided or hexagonal shape.

The exclusiveness of snowflakes results from the atmospheric conditions under which it falls towards the ground. Humidity, temperature and the direction of fall towards the ground are among the main factors that determine the shape of a snowflake while maintaining a 6-sided orientation. For example, needle-like crystals appear when temperatures are -5° C and flat plate-like crystals can be seen at -15° C.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Just like fingertips, there are no identical snowflakes. Though being the same at an atomic level, a broad categorization of basic snowflakes can be found in the book “The Snowflake: Winter’s Secret Beauty”. There are eight general categories in which these can be classified: stellar dendrites, spatial dendrites, hollow columns, sectored plates, needles, rimed crystals, capped columns and irregulars.

The beautiful mystery that no two snowflakes are identical still exists, and scientists are trying to find a solution to this. While we wait for the answers, let’s enjoy these tiny intricate beauties of nature falling from the sky.

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