Posted on December 3, 2008  Comments (0)

photos of snowflakes

Wilson A. Bentley pioneered the photography of snowflakes.

When he was seventeen years old, his parents bought him a bellows camera that had a microscope inside that could magnify the tiny snowflake from 64 to 3,600 times its actual size.
Bentley spent long hours in the bitter New England cold mastering the art of snowflake photography. After many failures, he photographed his first snow crystal in 1885, using a small lens opening that let in just a little bit of light but leaving the lens open for up to a minute and a half. He devoted the rest of his life to exploring these fascinating forms and photographed more than 5,000 snow crystals until his death in 1931.

The photo above was taken by Bentley in 1902 (see more).

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Weather Basics – Snowflakes:

Snowflakes form when atmospheric water is cooled below its freezing point by either an invasion of cold air, or a sudden updraft into cooler elevations. The water enters a super-cooled state and snowflake formation takes place upon air-borne microscopic dust particles acting as nuclei for condensation. As snow crystals form they take on a hexagonal shape with an infinite number of variations.

The temperature at which a crystal forms, and to a lesser extent the humidity of the air, determine the basic shape. The many things that happen to snow crystals as they fall, such as collisions, partial melting and colliding with water drops that freeze to them, create even more shapes. Irregular crystals with no easily identifiable form or a combination of more than one form are the most common, and only 1 per cent of flakes are thought to be symmetrical.

Snow crystals are six-sided because of the shape of the water molecule which consists of two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. This construction is formed in the shape of a triangle with three equal sides. When crystallisation takes place, each new ice crystal bud is formed at an angle of 60 degrees from the hub or apex of the triangle. Continuing this process, the hexagon is formed when six of these molecular triangles are completed and this becomes the framework for further growth.

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