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Crystal Splash | by Don Komarechka
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Crystal Splash

While this is a simple stellar snowflake, it does have some revealing and curious features inside. It starts with a splash in the center, but the hollow shapes a bit further out tell another, possibly more fascinating, story.


Circles. Some can be easily explained, others I can still scratching my head over. For example, the faint circle that borders the inner part of the snowflake but well beyond the “splash” is caused by inward crystal growth – at least, by conventional logic. Based on the topography of the front of the snowflake, this is likely forming on the reverse side of the crystal, echoing back towards the center from a larger hexagonal footprint. The circle in the center – clearly a bubble – is the more puzzling feature.


All of the bright areas in the center are bubbles trapped in the ice – you can even see the shadow cast by the edges of the bubble on the backside of the snowflake. How does such a bubble form into a complete circle? I have some theories about multiple waves of inward and outward crystal growth, but it’s all just a vague concept. I keep staring at this ring, as none of the standard physics models for snowflakes can properly explain it. All I have are slight clues.


One clue is found with the indentations beyond the outer circle. A squished oval sitting in front of a concave trapezoid. See it? These depressions in the surface of the crystal are remarkably similar in form to the ones in this snowflake from nearly five years ago: - or maybe this one?: . In both of those examples, they are not depressions alone, but rather bubbles, with a ceiling of ice over top of them. If this snowflake were allowed to grow larger, we would likely see the same thing happen here. I suspect the mechanism for this is the same that causes the bubbles in the center to form from depressions in the ice. Though, this does not explain how a ring-shaped depression would form in the first place.


Every snowflake is unique, but there are plenty of repeating patterns and similarities in features. The more you study them, the easier they become to spot. While these “puzzle pieces” can be identified, their interactions can create truly unique features – there are no two snowflakes alike, since they are constantly changing and growing, sublimating, and “evolving” over time.


Shot on a Lumix S1R with Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens. If you’d like to learn more about how these images are created, you can find an exhaustive tutorial here:

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Taken on February 19, 2021