General Question

Ltryptophan's avatar

How does one go about viewing a snowflake under a microscope?

Asked by Ltryptophan (10280points) August 28th, 2010

Won’t it melt?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

7 Answers

Resonantscythe's avatar

Best I could find:
My googlemancy is a little weak. Are you of school age? I remember receiving a handout about viewing snoflakes, so if you are maybe you can ask about it once classes start.

Afos22's avatar

It wont melt if you do it outside. But before you do it put the microscope in the freezer, so that the base is cold for the snowflake.

Ben_Dover's avatar

Air conditioned laboratories.

Flavio's avatar

put the glass slide in the freezer. only take it out to put the snow flake on it.

gasman's avatar

Sorry to say I have no hands on experience, but you’d need a below-freezing microscope, which could be done with an ordinary light microscope once it’s slowly cooled down. Cooling it too fast might be risky for the optics. I’d try catching falling flakes on clean glass slides pre-chilled well below the freezing point.

There will be a problem with fogging of the eyepieces when you bring your warm, moist eyes next to them. There are anti-fog coatings and possibly (?) heated oculars. Telescope people would know about this.

I recall a long-ago Scientific American article (amateur scientist column) on this topic. There are lots of beautiful photomicrographs of snowflakes published in books and no doubt on the internet as well. I’m sure there’s a body of how-to literature on this—somewhere. Google around.

Might I suggest a video microscope? You can get cheap ones (well under $100) online up to 60x power. Snap a photo of the snowflake then examine it in great detail later. Hi-res will cost $$. It’s also possible to retrofit a good optical microscope with video camera as an image capture device.

Lighting is a separate issue. Back- or side-lighting might be necessary to bring out certain structural details. Of course lighting usually generates heat which will melt your subject. Consider remote light sources connected to the “snowflake stage” by fiber-optic cables (like surgeons use on their heads), or tight-beam spotlights located at a distance.

keobooks's avatar

This video shows how the original “snowflake man” took over 5000 photographs of snowflakes in the late 18 – early 1900s. He did it with a blackboard, a straw from a broom and a camera attached to a microscope—all outside.

Scooby's avatar


Thanks for that ;-)

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