Snowflakes are ubiquitous around the holidays – Kids like to play in them on snow days, adults hate shovelling them off their front walks and they are used to decorate store-front windows everywhere.
But have you ever wondered why each of these mini-marvels has 6-sides?
Each flake has it’s own unique design, but they all share a common hexagonal shape.
Snowflakes are essentially tiny ice crystals that form in the clouds on a cold winter day. The water molecules arrange themselves in a particular way as they freeze, forming 6-sided shapes. As the crystals grow, they develop in complexity, becoming the beautiful and delicate snowflakes we know and recognize.
Under colder conditions, flakes form intricate and “sharp” shapes – On warmer days, they grow more slowly, resulting in smoother designs. The following are a few images of snowflakes taken with an electron microscope:
Think about this next time you’re clearing layers of snow off your car in the morning!