Atmosphere And Weather

Why do Snowflakes have 6 Sides



Jane Demerica's image for:
"Why do Snowflakes have 6 Sides"
Caption: 
Location: 
Image by: 
©  

Snow has the ability to capture our imaginations. There is nothing quite so fascinating as a snowflake. There is one question that many people have had on their minds for years though. Why does a snowflake have six sides? The anatomy of a snowflake can be answered through a scientific look at it.




Each snowflake is unique in its size and shape. The fact that they are all six sided remains that same though. Snowflakes build up little by little as it drops down through the sky. The snowflake acts like a magnet to water droplets that it passes on its way to Earth.




Snow is made up of two particles. Hydrogen and oxygen are the important ingredients that give the flake it's shape. Oxygen is in the center and the hydrogen attaches to the sides of it. This creates a v-shaped flake as it begins to form. The oxygen in the center is the negative force and the hydrogen, which forms the "arms" are the positive force. This pulls the two particles together. The angle of the hydrogen "arms" is 104.5 degrees. This creates the beginning of the snowflake.




As it drops down through the sky, other molecules are attracted to it. Each time the flake brushes up against these other molecules, they attach themselves to it. It can be compared to how a snowball can be rolled through the snow and pick up other snow until you have a huge snowball for making a snowman.




With all of the particles working their positive and negative charges the snowflake then forms a three dimensional appearance. This is what creates the six sided appearance of the snowflake. The addition of more molecules as it floats down to Earth can barely be seen. Snowflakes are very small so it makes it hard to distinguish what they truly look like. Perhaps putting the snowflake under a microscope would allow you to see exactly what it looks like.




Although each one has the same six sided appearance, they are not all alike. In fact, there are as many different shapes to the flakes as there are snowflakes that have fallen. Each one is shaped by different changes in the temperature and humidity. It's all about how the weather is at each given stage of it's flight and landing. It doesn't matter what changes that it goes through though. You will always see one common effect. That is the 6 sides that remain in tact.




School students have used this shape to cut snowflakes out of paper for many years. Scientists have proven that they always have the same six sides to it. Children often look in wonder and awe of the beautiful first snow of the year and can't wait to go play in it for the first time. We love it and hate it all at the same time. Getting it off the roads is a major issue at times. Snow balls fly through the air, snowmen are built in its honor. As all of these things happen, we don't always give thought to the science behind how each piece of snow is brought about. Isn't science amazing?

 

More about this author: Jane Demerica

ARTICLE SOURCES AND CITATIONS