What Is The Composition Of A Snowflake?


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Steve Theunissen Profile
It is the very symbol of winter itself—the snowflake. These extremely fragile crystals keep their six-sided shapes as they fall thousands of feet through gray skies. Snowflakes are lacy growths of water vapor formed around minute dust particles in the air. While we do not normally notice this dust, we can see it when it is caught in the shaft of a sunbeam. At the right temperature, when a water vapor molecule attaches itself to a dust nucleus, a snowflake is born.

It takes on remarkable shapes as it plunges earthward. Some shapes are delightfully simple and others are fantastically complex, but no two are precisely alike. Some snow crystals form the most beautiful designs in the world. The exquisite lacelike patterns have often been copied for jewelry pieces and fabric designs. Usually snowflakes fall individually, but if the temperature is just above freezing, they might cling together as they fall, sometimes forming a flake four inches in diameter.

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