Wonder Contributors

We’d like to thank our many Wonder Friends who suggested we revisit today’s Wonder of the Day, including Mandy from Minnesota, Kyah from Kentucky, Charis from Texas, Tracey from Nebraska, Thalia from New Jersey, and Sarah from Ohio!

You may have heard that no two snowflakes are exactly alike. That isn’t totally true, although the chance of finding twin snowflakes is very, very, very unlikely.

Scientists estimate the chances of two snowflakes being exactly alike are about 1 in 1 million trillion (that’s a 1 followed by 18 zeros). Meteorologists think that there are 1 trillion, trillion, trillion (a 1 with 36 zeros!) different types of snowflakes.

A snowflake has three basic ingredients: ice crystals, water vapor and dust. The ice crystals form as water vapor freezes on a bit of microscopic dust.

The dust particles can come from many different places, including flower pollen, volcanic ash, and even celestial bodies such as meteors.

Snow forms in very cold clouds containing water droplets and ice crystals. As water droplets attach themselves to ice crystals, they freeze, creating an even larger ice crystal.

In any crystal, little bits called molecules line up in a pattern. In ice crystals, water molecules line up and form a six-sided shape called a hexagon. This is why all snowflakes are six-sided.

The temperature of the cloud it forms in determines the shape of an ice crystal. Likewise, the amount of moisture in the cloud determines the size of the ice crystal.

More moisture will create a bigger crystal. When several ice crystals stick together, they form a snowflake.

As snowflakes tumble through the air, swirling and spiraling, they each take a different path to the ground. Each snowflake falls and floats through clouds with different temperatures and moisture levels, which shapes each snowflake in a unique way.

Even though two snowflakes may form in the same cloud, their different journeys to the ground will affect their shape and size, giving each snowflake its own unique identity.

You may never find an identical pair of snowflakes, but they can be grouped by similarities in their patterns. Explore photographs of common snowflake patterns.

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  1. That sounds like fun! We think we will try to catch two snowflakes at the same time the next time we get snow in Wonderopolis! :-)

  2. We love learning more about snow living here in Florida! We are going to inquire more about the different types of snowflakes!

    • Hi Mrs. Sicoli’s Class! We’re so glad you’re WONDERing with us! It’s so fun learning about snow and snowflakes! Has anyone in your class seen different types of snowflakes? We’d love to hear! Keep WONDERing! :)

      • Yes, we have had a few students who have seen different snowflakes and lots who have traveled up north and seen snow. We are still inquiring lots about snowflakes and are getting ready to read Snowflake Bentley! Thanks for replying:)

    • Great question, Abbie! According to the Wonder, “As snowflakes tumble through the air, swirling and spiraling, they each take a different path to the ground. Each snowflake falls and floats through clouds with different temperatures and moisture levels, which shapes each snowflake in a unique way.” Hope this helps, Wonder Friend! :-)

  3. What equipment do photographers use to picture snowflakes up close? We wondered how they managed to keep the snowflake from melting so they could see the different patterns? Do you know what the biggest and smallest snowflake ever recorded is? Thanks! Mrs. Mason’s Class :o)

  4. Dear wonderopilous,

    Hi how are you doing do you think that several ice crystals stick together to make one snowflake I think that is awesome. I think that all snowflakes are pretty and ice crystals are to and when they form together I think it makes them even prettier when they are in a snowflake. Water air and dust makes the ice crystal and then the ice crystal makes a snowflake. Sorry but I have to go I hope you learn a lot about snowflakes

    Your friend,gwendalyn .m.

  5. Dear wonderopoils,
    That is a really good story is that the only one you have.
    You really know a lot about snowflakes.
    I would love to lean more thnk you.
    Your friends ,
    Taylor

  6. One time I got one in my mouth it was gross and good at the same time and got two at the same time in my hand it was that close to being the same gust one line and cut it off it will be the same.

    • Welcome, Christilyn! Snowflakes come in all shapes and sizes. That is what is so neat about them! We are glad you enjoying WONDERopolis! :)

  7. Dear,wonderoplies
    I love snow flakes they are pretty.
    I wonder how big they are?
    I live in a dry place so I do no
    Know what thay look like.
    I have seen pictures of them before.

    • Hello WONDER friend, Isabella .w.! Snowflakes are so unique and interesting to watch. Check back soon for more WONDERful WONDERS! :)

  8. Dear Wonderopilis,
    What do the scientist use to see the snowflakes? I would like to see snowflakes like that!

    Your friend,
    Daniel

  9. Dear wonderoplis,
    I really like your little story.You really gave me some really gave me some facts about snowflakes.Why do scientists want to know about snowflakes?

    Your frieind,
    Lucy L.

    • Dear Lucy L.,
      We are glad you enjoyed this WONDER. Like us, scientists are always WONDERing! :)
      Sincerely,
      Your friends at WONDERopolis!

  10. Some snowflakes are alike and
    Are not and it is almost
    Impossible to see snowflakes.l
    there is like thouandsof snowflakes.

    • Hello, Joseph b.! You’re right! It is very rare to find a snowflake that is the same. We would have to have a microscope to really see the details of the snowflake. Have a WONDERful day! :)

  11. Dear wonderopoils,

    Hi how are you doing. I did not know that seven ice crystals could make one whole snowflake I think that is awesome. I think snowflakes are very elegant when they fall from the sky I think that the people who read this will be very interesting have you ever touched a snowflakes? Well I got to go so bye!

    Your friend,
    Gwendalyn .M.

    • Dear Gwendalyn M,

      Thanks for sharing your new learning with your WONDER friends! We are glad you found this WONDER interesting. Touching a snowflake would be cold! Have you ever touched a snowflake?

      Sincerely,
      Your friends at WONDERopolis :)

  12. Dear Wonderopolis,

    That is cool that there is more than 2 trillion snowflakes.What materials do you use to see the snowflakes.

    Your friend,
    Logan

    • Dear Loga,

      To see the true detail of a snowflake you will probably need a microscope or magnifying glass because they are so small. They sure are pretty to look at! Great job WONDERing! :)

      Sincerely,
      Your friends at WONDERopolis!

  13. The smallest thing I can see is a Plankton because you can only see them with a microscope. What’s your favorite snowflake and why?

    • We are glad you liked this WONDER, Heather! You could search for more snow wonders at the top of the page. Ice is one of the ingredients in snow. The 3rd paragraph of this WONDER tells us that “a snowflake has three basic ingredients: ice crystals, water vapor and dust. The ice crystals form as water vapor freezes on a bit of microscopic dust.” Have a WONDERful day! :)

  14. It is almost impossible to see snowflakes!!! but it is not
    it is so tiny that you can’t even see it
    there is like 1 and one millions of zeros.
    There is diffrent kinds of snowflakes
    that when you hold it you it is diffrent.

  15. I use the daily email to have a discussion of the day with my 7 year old daughter. She loves learning about everything so this site has helped us learn about new things all the time. Thank you, I tell every parent I know about this website!! Any plans for an app??

    • Hi, Allie! We love to hear you are using WONDERopolis to engage in learning at home! We do have an app currently available where you can view the Wonder of the Day. It’s great because you always have WONDERopolis near by! :)

    • Hi, Elizabeth! We do not know how long it would take to get 1 pitcher of snowflakes. It would depend on how fast it is snowing. Maybe next time it snows, you could do an experiment to find out! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Why are all snowflakes different?
  • How many different types of snowflakes are there?
  • How are snowflakes formed?

Wonder Gallery

Wonder #79- Snowflake Static Image2Vimeo Video

Try It Out

We hope you didn’t think today’s Wonder was too flaky! Be sure to explore the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • Feeling crafty? It’s always fun to make your own snowflakes with construction paper and scissors. What design will you make? Check out Paper Snowflake online for ideas and hints to make some really cool homemade paper snowflakes!
  • Want to take your paper snowflake one step farther? If you have some skill at origami, you’ll probably have no trouble making a three-dimensional paper snowflake. If you need some step-by-step guidance, however, just jump online to check out How To Make a 3D Paper Snowflake. Get some friends to help you make a bunch of snowflakes that you can use to decorate your room!
  • Up for a challenge? No matter what the weather is like outside, you can make your own snowflakes inside right now! You’ll want to get help from an adult friend or family member for this fun science experiment. You can find all the instructions online at How To Make Ice Crystals. Have fun! What shapes will your snowflakes take?

Still Wondering

Want to learn more? Here are a couple of resources you can explore.

  • Explore A Matter of Pattern at Science NetLinks, where you can create and predict patterns formed when making paper snowflakes.
  • Snowflakes can be photographed if you are quick enough and in the right place at the right time! Learn about Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley, who photographed thousands and thousands of snowflakes.

 

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