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


Caption: Snowflakes. These are ice crystals that form in air that has a temperature near the freezing point of water. If the air is calm, then symmetrical, hexagonal snowflakes can form. The two main growth patterns observed are faceting and branching. When growth is fast and unstable, branching patterns create dendritic snowflakes. Slower growth allows the straight lines and hexagonal shapes of plate snowflakes. Snowflakes can display both types of growth. These ones were mostly formed by dendritic 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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