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No Two Alike: Snowflake Photography Reveals Nature's Symmetry [Slide Show]

Kenneth Libbrecht's photography highlights the beauty of each individual flake in his book The Art of the Snowflake

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NO TWO ALIKE:

The growth of a snow crystal is very sensitive to the local temperature and humidity. Because each snowflake takes a different path as it falls from the clouds, each grows differently. The number of possible forms is enormous, so no two complex snow crystals are exactly alike.....[ More ]

A REGAL SNOWFLAKE:

This rather majestic specimen fell on an exceptionally cold night in Vermont. The crystal measures three millimeters (0.12 inch) from tip to tip, and it is lavishly decorated with a variety of surface markings and faceted branches.....[ More ]

THREE-SIDED MYSTERY:

Occasionally a snow crystal will exhibit a three-fold symmetry, looking like truncated triangles. Why some crystals grow into this form remains something of a scientific puzzle.....[ More ]

MONSTER CRYSTAL:

This large specimen measures 10.2 millimeters (0.4 inch) from tip to tip, about as large as a dime. The crystal exhibits some fractal, or self-similar, structure. Many side branches have their own side branches, and some of them even have additional side branches.....[ More ]

BRANCHING AND SIDE BRANCHING:

This snow crystal started out as a small hexagonal prism, and the six branches sprouted from the six corners of the hexagon. As it grew, additional side branches sprouted from the main branches. The six-fold symmetry arises from the hexagonal packing of water molecules in the ice crystal.....[ More ]

EXCEPTIONAL SYMMETRY:

As a growing snow crystal tumbles through the clouds, it experiences ever-changing temperatures and humidity levels along the way. Each change in its local environment changes the way a crystal grows, producing a variety of complex structures.....[ More ]

SECTORED PLATES:

Snow crystals are often decorated with ridges that appear to divide each crystal or its branches into sectors, and these forms are called sectored plates.....[ More ]

STELLAR DENDRITES:

The canonical winter icons, stellar snow crystals are thin plates of ice with six main arms, or branches. When each main branch contains several side branches, the crystals are called stellar dendrites, which means "treelike".....[ More ]

CAPPED COLUMNS:

These exotic snow crystal forms occur when the growth changes from columnar to platelike as the crystals fall. The archetypical example looks like a stubby axle flanked by two hexagonal wheels.....[ More ]

COLUMNS AND NEEDLES:

Warmer snowfalls often bring crystals shaped like slender hexagonal columns—the same basic form as wooden pencils. Often the columns have hollow ends, and some are long and thin, like tiny ice needles.....[ More ]

EXOTIC COLORS:

This picture was taken using a blue background augmented with various colored lights shining in from the sides. Where the snow crystal is thin and flat, you mainly see just the background coming through.....[ More ]

WHITE SNOW:

Many people think snowflakes are white, but a close look reveals that they are transparent, like glass. Snowflakes and snowbanks appear white because light is scattered from the edges of the clear crystals.....[ More ]

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