Published: 2007-12-15 13:25:00
Updated: 2007-12-15 13:27:06
Posted December 15, 2007
By Beth Peace
MIKE MOSS SAYS: Beth, They are very nice photos of a few very nicely formed snow crystals, but I don't see anything in regards to the photos that would make me think the the crystals are fake. There is one picture in which you see a very intricate and symmetrical "stellar dendrite" crystal in the foreground, a similar crystal laying over a bit near the top of the image, and a third nicely formed crystal called a "stellar plate" just above and to the right of the crystal in front (the stellar plate is semi-transparent in appearance while the more intricate corners, curves and faces of the other crystals makes them appear white). You'll also see a few broken and irregularly formed crystals in the picture, along with a puffy "snowflake" that is an aggregate of several crystals and/or crystal pieces that have stuck together. These kinds of aggregate flakes are more common in our part of the world, but we do have the occasional snowfall in which the temperature and humidity levels involved in the snow growth region are such as to produce the intricate crystals of the sort you see in the picture (and I have certainly seen a number of them here over the years - they tend to be mixed in with some aggregates and with imperfectly formed crystals, so there's a bit of "wheat from chaff" separation you have to do when your looking for them). You just have to have your eye out for them. Also, it's common around here for temperatures to be pretty close to freezing when snow is falling, so very shortly after a crystal lands on a jacket or a deck railing it may begin to melt away, especially when a warm, breathing person gets close to try and have a look at it! It tends to be easier to see these kinds of crystals in the less common snows that occur with very cold temperatures. Of course, they can be quite small so it also helps to have a magnifying glass or a camera with a good macro setting.
For some really nice photos of individual snow crystals, not to mention more than you probably ever wanted to know about the variety of crystal shapes that can occur, you might enjoy perusing the web addresses below.
You might also like to take a look at the photos at the address below - I took them at my home in Wake County one morning when we had especially cold yet humid conditions appropriate for growing the stellar plates and dendrites that people associate with classic snow crystals. Instead of forming in the clouds, though, the water vapor deposited directly onto the mailbox as frost. Pictures 1-3 are of the plates that I called "fancy frost," while the fourth photo is from a different morning when conditions were more typical for frost in our area. See