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Dark Paper/Cardboard - This is your collection surface. You want it to be dark for contrast, and made of paper or cardboard so it poorly conducts heat. We don't want the snowflakes melting when they land.
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Flashlight - Best collection times are at night, or at the very least, in the shade. The radiation of the sun, even reflecting off of other surfaces, could melt the snowflakes before you can collect and cure them. Use an LED flashlight, or headlamp, to help inspect the snowflakes. Angles are important and moving your light source around could make snowflakes you didn't see before pop out like twinkling stars. I suggest LED because you want something that doesn't give off a lot of heat.
Dress warmly. One, to protect yourself from the elements, and two, to protect your snowflakes from your body heat. We release a surprising amount of energy, about 100 watts, and a good chunk of this in the form of radiated heat. Wear gloves that still afford a degree of dexterity, and avoid handling anything more than it needs to be.
In a light snow and in the shade (or at night), place your dark piece of paper/cardboard out to collect falling snowflakes. Inspect the snowflakes, and if you find one you like, use your paint brush to ever so gently collect the snowflake and move it to a waiting slide. I find it useful to have the slides laid out on the surface ready to go, and just place a piece of paper over them so that snow does not collect on them.
Collecting the snowflakes with the paintbrush can be a bit tricky, but it's something you'll get better at as you go. If it's humid, the snowflakes like to stick to other snowflakes, to your paintbrush, or pretty much anything they touch. If it's dry, you may have trouble picking up the snowflake at all.
Once you have gently collected and moved your snowflake to the glass slide, gently place it somewhere near the center. Sometimes the snowflakes like to stick to the brush, and you may have trouble extracting it without damaging the snowflake. Try, and try again.
Once positioned, add a small drop of superglue onto the waiting snowflake. It's very important that the superglue be kept cold, and do not handle the tube for very long. Grab a glass cover slip or second microscope slide, and gently lay it atop the snowflake. Use the "wedge" technique shown in the photos to minimize trapped air. Don't use your bare hands like in the photos -- your uninsulated hands will quickly heat up the glass cover slip.
Not everything in this process is under your control, and unexpected things can happen. My advice is to play the numbers game. You can have more than one snowflake under a slip, or have 2-3 slips per slide. Or just keep collecting on to slide after slide. Experiment with different techniques, and discover what works best (and let me know what works best for you!).
The superglue resin does not cure instantly, and in fact, will cure very slowly at temperatures below freezing. Thus, any disturbance prior to curing has the potential to ruin your snowflake. Any unexpected temperature change could also melt the snowflake before it has cured.
If you're interested in learning what works, what doesn't, and what conditions are best, take notes on your collection day. Also, once your snowflakes have cured, it's a nice touch to write onto the slide (with a fine-tip sharpie) the collection date, time, and location.
The reason we can preserve something as delicate as a snowflake with super glue is because super glue is actually activated by water. In fact, without moisture, super glue would be pretty useless as an adhesive.
The good news is that the the polymerization should be initiated at the snowflake/glue boundary, and so should begin to preserve our snowflake immediately. The bad news is that the reaction is exothermic and produces some heat -- whether this heat is sufficient enough to cause melting is questionable and I'd have to run through the calculation. However, this is why manufacturers warn of spilling super glue on clothing. The cellulose in cotton materials rapidly initiates polymerization and in turn releasing large amounts of heat -- enough to burn you!
The rate of polymerization also slows significantly with decreased temperature. In fact, some manufacturers claim that the shelf life of their unopened superglue can be extended indefinitely if stored at freezer temperatures. This is a problem for us, as we want to keep our snowflakes from melting, but also ensure the resin cures in a timely fashion. So, store them somewhere pretty cold, but not too cold? Frankly though, I wouldn't worry about this -- just ensure they are in a freezer for a few weeks.
Because the act of snowflake preservation is slightly destructive, I'm of the opinion that the purest form of snowflake preservation is photography -- though it lacks the tangibility that makes this process so special. In terms of photography, the images I've attached were taken without a fancy macro lens (I just used extension tubes and a zoom lens on my DSLR). If you have a microscope, the quality of photos you can capture of snowflakes is phenomenal (see the link below). However, that's a topic for another day.
thanks! last winter I saw this on the same caltech site you cited, but it seemed like there's no way it would work, especially the paintbrush part. I'm a little less skeptical now that I've heard it a second time. I'm a photographer and just started getting into macro shots of flakes toward the end of last winter (I don't get much good snow where I live to begin with). Does preservation automatically detract from the "photographability?" It would be so much easier to bring preserved flakes into the studio than run around in bad light with a makeshift portable studio setup!here's a shot from last year. certainly room for improvement this year!
This is great! Very well written Instructable, especially for your first! I really want to try this if I ever end up near snow this winter. One note, I think in the Collection step, you don't actually describe how you cover the flakes with glue. Also, are they sandwiched between two slides? Could you explain that in more detail? Thanks :)
Collect SnowflakesWhen the snow starts falling, grab your kids, coats and boots, a couple of pieces of black construction paper, and a magnifying glass or two if you have them. As the snow is falling around you, catch a couple of snowflakes on your black construction paper and observe them with your magnifying glass, comparing how the snowflakes are similar and different. Count how many sides or points the snowflakes have and if any snowflakes appear to match.
When it is time to collect and preserve snowflakes, bring out the slides, the hairspray, and a couple of toothpicks. Spray one side of the slides with the hairspray. Catch the snowflakes on the sticky side of the microscope slides, using a toothpick to gently move the snowflake to center it, if needed. Place the slide with the snowflake in a cold area where no more snowflakes will fall on it, such as inside a covered box or in the unheated garage. Leave the slide untouched for several hours so that the hairspray can dry and the water in the snowflake will disappear. You now have the imprint of a snowflake on a slide you can study with the naked eye or a microscope.
Make Borax SnowflakesIf you do not have snow where you live, no problem. Just make your own borax snowflakes. This activity takes about 30 minutes of active preparation and then overnight to grow.
2. Tie a piece of string to one end of the star. Connect the string to the next point by twisting it around the pipe cleaner. Continue around until you connect all the points together with the string, making a snowflake skeleton.
3. Tie another piece of string to one of the pipe cleaner points, and tie the other end around the pencil. Place the snowflake in the jar with the pencil resting across the mouth of the jar to make sure that the snowflake hangs without touching any part of the jar. Take the snowflake out of the jar.
5. Create the crystal. Hang your snowflake in the jar so it is completely covered in the solution. Let it sit overnight. Gently remove your now crystal-covered snowflake in the morning and let it dry by hanging it in a dry jar.
Awesome Six-Sided Paper SnowflakesEveryone knows how to make paper snowflakes, right? But most people make flakes with four or eight sides. Since real snowflakes always form six-sided flakes, here is a step-by-step guide to folding the paper so you get six points every time.
This may take some practice: placing the nozzle of the glue bottle too close or too far away from the snowflake could cause damage. Lay the coverslip gently (and quickly) on top of the glue drop. If glue bubbles occur try angling the coverslip onto the drop. The glue fully hardens at a slow rate, so either place the slide(s) in a sheltered spot outside or in your freezer for 5 to 10 days.
P2.2 Analysis of Snowflake Types and the Atmospheric Conditions that Produce ThemPAPER WITHDRAWNJustin J. Liles, St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, MN; and D. T. HansenAnalysis of Snowflake Types and the AtmosphericConditions that Produce ThemAbstractManual observations and atmospheric soundings were used to study snow crystal types that were collected at the surface. This was done to help determine where snow crystals take on their identity within the cloud. The study was conducted during the winter of 2001-2002 in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Snowflakes preserved at the surface were carefully analyzed and compared to a laboratory study done by Nakaya (1954). The conducted laboratory experiment was done for mainly two reasons. One reason is crystal type formation and the second is the estimated height at which these crystals formed in the cloud producing the snow. This paper will try to show that observations done naturally are consistent with those done in the artificial lab experiment. In both the natural and laboratory experiments initial crystal growth formation seemed to take place in the lower saturated layer of the cloud. The maximum growth of the crystal was found to be in the upper saturated portion of the cloud. The layer where most of the crystals seemed to be forming was in the 600mb to 750mb layer. The 2001-2002 winter was extremely warm and most of the crystals observed at the surface were dendrites. 041b061a72