It appears that this little snowflake has a number of birthday cakes fit for royalty in the center! The symmetry in these simple hexagons is always beautiful. View large!
I know at least one person following this series has a birthday today, so this one’s for you Elisabeth! The unusual “cake” shaped bubbles are actually more common than you might imagine, and I’ve photographed similar crystals about a dozen times. That doesn’t diminish the beauty here, but it does beg the question: why are they so common?
One of the first features a plate-like snowflake will develop is a cavity in the side. This happens when the top and bottom growing edge grow faster than the inner part of that same facet, and the pattern you see is a result of how those cavities opened as closed as the humidity and temperature varied during the early stages of this snowflake’s “life”. Certain thicknesses evoke thin film interference to give us the pink colours, while others remain white – the frosting?
You’ll notice that every other cake is roughly the same, providing an interesting example of three-fold symmetry. This is echoed almost silently towards the outer edges, where you’ll notice smaller bubbles that fit certain patterns on the odd sides and different ones on the even sides. Even a very trigonal snowflake will echo its origins if the conditions are right to grow branches. Three-fold symmetry, probably called by the aerodynamic features of a particular snowflake (heavy reading for those curious: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/7716/089aa9088d22a1b8dfa5bb45250f9781e4c1.pdf ), always echoes through the snowflake in some way, no matter how large it gets. What happens at the beginning often has an impact on the final shape.
There’s much more to explore, with one feature I cannot explain. Similar to the hint of patterns created by inward crystal growth (circles in the snow), why is there a star-like pattern just outside the bubbles/cakes, and what causes it to bend in an inverted fashion to the common circles, also seen? A mystery needs to be solved here!
If you’d like to know more about the science of snowflakes with an exhaustive and comprehensive tutorial on how to photograph and edit these little gems, check out my book Sky Crystals:
Other things you might be interested in:
2018 Ice Crystals Coin from the Royal Canadian Mint featuring my snowflakes: http://www.mint.ca/store/coins/coin-prod3040427
“The Snowflake” print, taking 2500 hours to create: http://skycrystals.ca/product/poster-proof/
Photo Geek Weekly, my new podcast: http://www.photogeekweekly.com/