If this snowflake says anything, it’s symmetry. Nearly identical features on every branch, you’d have to dive incredibly deep into the details to find appreciable differences. View large!
These types of snowflakes are incredibly rare. Symmetry can be created easily in a laboratory when growing snowflakes, but conditions in nature don’t present themselves by significant measure. I pass over thousands of snowflakes looking for the most interesting, colourful, and symmetrical, and then a snowflake like this appears on the black mitten I use to collect and shoot my snowflakes.
Out of nowhere and completed unexpected, as all other snowflakes I saw from this same snowfall were roughly one third this size. Not a “giant” snowflake compared to the biggest I’ve seen, but a 3mm crystal surrounded by 1mm crystals gets your attention! I believe that the stable conditions responsible for its smaller sibling’s hexagonal shaped allowed for this to form. But how?
One clue lies in the ripples you see running along the center of each branch. This is the most elaborate display of inward crystal growth I have ever seen. Essentially, the snowflake is growing in thickness starting at the outer edges and working back towards the center of the snowflake. It’s commonly seen as circles in the center of snowflakes, or curved lines faintly echoing the outer edges. In the past I would have explained that multiple rings were caused by multiple “waves” if inward growth, as if an outer edge became thicker and allowed for an additional round of inward growth to echo back towards the center. That logic doesn’t hold up to this design.
I can’t explain this. It makes me very happy when I look at a snowflake and can’t explain it. :) If you’d like to see the pages in my book Sky Crystals that relate to this kind of growth for more background info, it’s here: http://skycrystals.ca/img/circles-in-the-snow.jpg
How can an unexplainable feature be considered a clue? It simply tells me something out of the ordinary was involved in the creation of this snowflake. Inward growth usually happens when a snowflake is growing very snowflake, and broad branches are also a sign of that. Could this be a sign of incredibly slow snowflake growth? Why was it able to hang out in the clouds considerably longer than all others around it? Just another mystery I’ve yet to unravel.
To discover how snowflakes form and to see many other mysteries investigated in the realm of snowflakes, check out my book Sky Crystals: https://www.skycrystals.ca/book/ - it also has a complete and exhaustive photographic tutorial to help you document the beautiful gems you discover for yourself!