I think winter is over. Seriously. I know that we’ve had a many a snowstorm this late in the season, but this winter has been rather long, and I’m ready for Spring.
Just in case I’m wrong and I have to face yet another storm, here are some pictures of snowflakes that make snow look really appealing. These aren’t the snowflakes I see, which look like Hey-I’m-going-to-be-late-to-work, but the stereotypical ones that have that pretty six-sided symmetry. Here’s a great example by dpnsan, taken this January.
And here’s one that CaptPiper took last January:
Snowflakes have six-sided symmetry because water molecules are made of one Hydrogen and two Oxygen molecules, in a configuration that looks a little bit like Strong Sad. According to this science site, the molecules get all cozy:
The oxygen atom has a particularly strong attraction to the electron clouds of the two hydrogen atoms and pulls them closer. This leaves the two hydrogen ends more positively charged, and the center of the “V” more negatively charged. When other water molecules “brush up” against this growing snowflake, strong forces between the negatively charged and positively charged parts of different particles cause them to join together in a very specific three-dimensional pattern with a six-sided symmetry. Each water molecule that joins the snowflake reflects this pattern until eventually we can see its macroscopic six-sided shape.
And that’s how we get results like this (taken with an electron microscope, from the US Department of Agriculture).
The neat thing about snowflakes is that they don’t have to be so spikey looking. Sometimes they form regular hexagons:
The photo was taken by Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley. He was the first person ever to photograph a snowflake, back in 1885, and he went on to take bunch of pictures that were published by all sorts of places, including Scientific American and National Geographic. I’ll end with a collection of some of his photos.
In case you’re wondering how people manage to take pictures of things that melt almost as soon as you look at them, there’s a description here. For some really stunning examples of the finished products, see the photos by David Drexler, Mark Cassino, and F. W. Widall.
Update 3/12: I woke up this morning and the ground was covered in snow. I might have been a tad premature in saying that winter was over.