Some may use the expressions "snowflakes" and "snow crystals" interchangeably, but they are actually different things. Snowflakes are clusters of snow crystals. Though a single snow crystal may be called a snowflake, usually a snowflake is made up of multiple snow crystals. People who classify snow crystals divide them into 41 types. Below are five of them.
A simple prism is a hexagonal (six-sided) snow crystal. These flat snow crystals look like small slivers of a pencil, though they can have ridges and other features. Simple prisms are the smallest of the snow crystal shapes and cannot be seen by the naked eye. They are also the first stage of a snow crystal's growth. While some snowflakes keep this shape, others will grow branches and facets and take on other shapes.
Stellar plates are flat snow crystals that have six arms stretching out from a hexagonal center. Snow crystals' shapes are partly determined by temperature; these crystals form when the temperature is between 5 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
Needles are an interesting type of snow crystal. These are, as their name implies, small, thin crystals that resemble needles. They start as flat, long crystals, but as the temperature gets colder, they become three-dimensional needle crystals.
Stellared Dendrites get their name from the word "dendritic", which means tree-like. These snow crystals are what you probably picture when you think of a snowflake. Stellared Dentrite snow crystals have branches stretching from the center, and the six branches can also have branches. These crystals are between two to four millimeters in size, and can be seen with a magnifying glass.
Fernlike Stellar Dendrites
Fernlike Stellar Dendrites have six branches that look like the branches of a fern plant. If you have ever experienced powder snow while skiing, you have experienced fernlike stellar dendrites. These snow crystals can also be seen with a magnifying glass, as they are usually around five millimeters in length.
About the Author
Lisa Duncan is a freelance writer based in Maryland who contributes articles related to computers, health, and fitness. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from University of Delaware and a Master of Arts degree in computer fraud investigations from George Washington University.
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