Shiela Fuller is back with a fascinating post about the man who discovered the uniqueness of snowflakes: Wilson Bentley.
Snow is a form of precipitation that occurs when the air temperature is at 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Water vapor in the air freezes into ice crystals. A speck of dust or particulate from the atmosphere will act as a nucleus to which ice crystals will form around. As it falls to the ground it will continue to pick up more crystals and build into a snowflake. They take on many shapes and sizes.
Although it is possible, it’s highly unlikely that any two snowflakes are alike.
Next time it snows, take a sheet of black construction paper outside. Hold the paper in front of you and allow the flakes to fall on it. Take a close look at the flakes. What do you notice? Are the flakes similar? Do they look different? Are they hard to tell apart?
In 1885, Wilson Alwyn Bentley was the first to photograph snowflakes. The technique he used over 100 years ago is similar to the method used to photograph snowflakes today.
Examples of the first photographs that Bentley photographed:
Image from the Wilson Bentley Wikipedia page
Beginning when he was a teenager, Bentley captured the image of over 5000 unique patterns of snowflakes using a camera and a microscope. There was much trial and error in the process but he became known as “Snowflake Bentley” in his hometown of Jericho, Vermont.
Go to this website for easy instructions on how to make paper snowflakes: http://highhopes.com/snowflakes.html
Print out this sheet of Wilson Bentley’s snowflakes to follow as patterns for making your own paper snowflakes:
To learn more about Wilson Bentley, check out the book SNOWFLAKE BENTLEY by Jacqueline Briggs Martin from your local library.
Shiela Fuller has been a Cornell University Project Feeder Watch participant for many years and an avid birder since 1988. Currently, she enjoys writing picture books, yoga, chicken raising, wildlife photography, and is the legacy keeper for her family.