Curious History recently posted about the world’s first pictures of snowflakes ever taken in 1885 by William Bentley. We know have another first, the world’s first 3D images of snowflakes caught as they are falling.
Researchers at the University of Utah have teamed up with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to better understand just how fast and in what form snowflakes truly fall. To accomplish this, they used a high-speed Multi-Angle Snowflake Cam (aka “MASC”) to capture real-time 3D images of snowflakes in freefall at Utah’s Alta Ski Area.
The study is reportedly the first of its kind, and it’s already turning up some really interesting results.
The classic image of a snowflake is a fluke. That flat, six-sided crystal with delicate filigree patterns of sharp branches occurs in only about one in every 1000 flakes. And a snowflake seen in 3D is another beast entirely. Researchers have developed a camera system that shoots untouched flakes “in the wild” as they fall from the sky. By grabbing a series of images of the tumbling crystals—its exposure time is one-40,000th of a second, compared with about one-200th in normal photography—the camera is revealing the true shape diversity of snowflakes.