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This image is part of the feature The Snowflake World Of Kenneth Libbrecht


Caption: Snowflake. This is an ice crystal that forms in air that has a temperature near the freezing point of water. If the air is calm, then a symmetrical, hexagonal snowflake can form. The two main growth patterns observed are faceting and branching. When growth is slow, the straight edges and hexagonal shapes of faceting create a plate snowflake. As a snowflake grows, instabilities cause branching and the star-shaped patterns of a dendritic snowflake. Snowflakes can display both types of growth. This one was mostly formed by plate growth. The type of growth also depends on temperature, which changes in a different way for each snowflake, causing the wide variation in snowflake patterns.

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