VSL:SCIENCE // Visit a real-life winter wonderland

One hundred twenty-five years ago, Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley took the first microphotographs of snow; 46 years later he died of pneumonia contracted while photographing snowflakes in his barn. Today, CalTech physicist Kenneth Libbrecht is carrying Bentley’s work into the 21st century — and posting the findings online.

Libbrecht’s gallery includes a remarkably beautiful photograph of the “stellar dendrite” — a many-branched, starlike form that creates the light, fluffy powder that skiers adore. You’ll also see a “hollow column” (which resembles a tiny pipette) and the superdelicate “needle” snowflake, which appears only when the temperature nears 23 degrees F. Keep looking, and you’ll find prisms, sectored plates, and the rare triangular snowflake. According to Libbrecht, each of these flakes holds about a billion billion molecules.

This post is from Observer Short List—an email of three favorite things from people you want to know. Sign up to receive OSL here. VSL:SCIENCE // Visit a real-life winter wonderland