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Old 8th January 2009, 06:21 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Pictured: The stunning snowflakes that look like diamonds in the sky

Pictured: The stunning snowflakes that look like diamonds in the sky

Last updated at 10:45 AM on 07th January 2009


As snow blizzards sweep across the country many want are eager to see the back of this Arctic winter.

But scientist Kenneth Libbrecht is excited by the prospect of sub zero temperatures, snow blizzards and arctic winds.

Using a specially designed photo-microscope the Professor of Physics at the California Institute of Technology, has spent the last 11 years catching and photographing tiny snowflakes.


Snow flakes form when cloud droplets freeze as they fall to Earth

Showcased in his latest book, "Snowflakes" these amazingly detailed images show the unique crystal formation of snowflakes.

'When I first began toying with the idea of writing a book about snowflakes, I found that there weren't any really nice pictures out there,' the 50-year-old said.

'The state-of-the-art in snowflake photography was not what it could have been.

'This was an opportunity, so I set out to design and build a photo-microscope that was optimised for taking pictures of snowflakes.'

Mr Libbrecht soon found that he would have to overcome a number of challenges in acquiring the right image.

'There are a number of challenges in photographing snowflakes,' he said.

'The crystals are small, so the usual techniques of macro photography don't work well; what you need is essentially a high-quality, low-power microscope.

'In addition, the equipment must be robust enough to work outside, and it has to withstand sub-freezing temperatures.

'Finally, to take good pictures, you have to take a lot of pictures. Therefore, I wanted my hardware to be easy to set up and use.'


Kenneth Libbrecht captured the images using a photo-microscope

Snow flakes form when a cloud droplet first freezes into a tiny particle of ice.

As water vapor starts condensing on its surface, the ice particle quickly develops facets, which form into different shaped snowflakes depending on temperature.

Whilst scientists differ on the classifications of snowflakes, Kenneth has identified 35 different types of formations.

These include Stellar Dentrites, plate-like snow crystals that have branches and sidebranches, which are typically 2-4 mm in diameter.

Stellar Plates or 'common snowflakes' are thin, plate-like crystals with six broad arms that form a star-like shape, forming when the temperature is near -2 C (28 F) or near -15 C (5 F).

Others like Fernlike Stellar Dentrites are the largest snow crystals, often falling to earth with diameters of 5mm or more.


Mr Libbrecht has identified 35 different formations of flake

Building the specially designed SnowMaster 9000, a microscope and Nikon D1X digital camera contained in a heated enclosure, Kenneth was able to get the desired results.

'The camera itself is housed in a heated enclosure, white styrofoam box, so that it can stay outside in the cold indefinitely,' Kenneth expalined.

'The snowflake is placed on a platform attached to a translation stage for focusing.

'As is typical for microscopes, it is more convenient to move the subject than to move the lens. I attached a flexible shaft and a large knob to the stage, making it easier to focus with cold fingers.'

To highlight the snowflake's dimensions and qualities, the photographer uses illumination techniques, from a variety of colour filters for different effects.

'Snow crystals are made of ice, which is clear and colourless,' he said.

'I like to illuminate the crystals with coloured lights from behind, using the optical layout shown above.

'The snow crystal then acts like a complex lens that refracts the different colours in different directions, producing a variety of colourful effects.

'To illuminate the crystals, I use a lamp mounted below them.

'Above the lamp is a heat-rejection filter and a piece of ground glass and on top of those components I can place any of a number of colour filters. The field lens focuses the colour filter onto the microscope objective.'


snowflake

Kenneth's amazing images have allowed him to further his study of of crystal formations and apply them to a number of industries - particuarly manufacturing.

'There are several good reasons for studying how snowflakes form,' he said.

'First of all, crystals are useful in all sorts of applications, and we would like to know how to grow them better.
By studying the physics of snowflakes, we learn about how molecules condense to form crystals.

'Another good reason to study snowflakes is to better understand structure formation and self-assembly.

'The snowflake is an very simple example of self-assembly.

'There is no blueprint or genetic code that guides the growth of a snowflake, yet marvelously complex structures appear, quite literally out of thin air.

'As we understand better how snowflakes form, we learn about self-assembly. As the electronics industry pushes toward ever smaller devices, it is likely that self-assembly will play an increasingly important role in manufacturing.'

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencete...monds-sky.html

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Old 8th January 2009, 02:38 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Pictured: The stunning snowflakes that look like diamonds in the sky

The snowflakes certainly looked nice. But melt away in the palm of the hand.

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Old 9th January 2009, 12:47 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Pictured: The stunning snowflakes that look like diamonds in the sky

Originally Posted by *StarDust* View Post
[
'As we understand better how snowflakes form, we learn about self-assembly. As the electronics industry pushes toward ever smaller devices, it is likely that self-assembly will play an increasingly important role in manufacturing.'

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencete...monds-sky.html
Very true !

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Old 9th January 2009, 04:37 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Pictured: The stunning snowflakes that look like diamonds in the sky

woww.. nature is beautiful!

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Old 9th January 2009, 05:20 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Pictured: The stunning snowflakes that look like diamonds in the sky

oh wow

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Old 9th January 2009, 05:24 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Pictured: The stunning snowflakes that look like diamonds in the sky

Originally Posted by Voodoo Vince View Post
The snowflakes certainly looked nice. But melt away in the palm of the hand.
Just like how beautiful things never last.

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Old 9th January 2009, 10:21 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Pictured: The stunning snowflakes that look like diamonds in the sky

thanks for sharing great stuff !!

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