Crystal stars

Crystal stars are one of the types of crystals that form on really chilly nights (less than 10 deg F). On this morning, instead of a few isolated stars, there was a mass of crystals:

The bit of sun lends some shimmer to the stars – and I left this in color, instead of converting to B&W as I often do for ice images. The scene is perhaps six inches wide.

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16 thoughts on “Crystal stars

    • The form that we see as snowflakes and ice crystals is in the hexagonal group, “ice Ih”. Some time ago I read a book by a Japanese physicist that said ice forms different crystalline shapes at different temperatures. I think most of what I see is hexagonal ice. The mineral your are thinking of may be hexagonal as well.

      According to the physicists who study ice, there a fourteen crystalline forms of ice (ice I, ice II, ..). One scientist counts eighteen and variants (http://www1.lsbu.ac.uk/water/ice_phases.html), but it seems that many of them form under unusual conditions. The crystal shape is determined by the different unit cell configurations of the water molecule, and these ice 1 to ice 18 forms fall under crystal family names familiar from crystallography (monoclinic, cubic, tetragonal…).

  1. I assumed the elongated crystals are the ones you’ve called ‘stars,’ so I looked at some of your other posts and confirmed that. It’s odd — no matter how hard I try, I can’t see stars. Instead, they look like someone mowed the snow, and left the crystals lying around like grass clippings. It’s funny how we carry around a mental template for various shapes or objects (‘star’) and don’t realize it until something doesn’t fit our template.

    They certainly are beautiful. I got a grin out of this: “really chilly nights (less than 10 deg F).” Chilly? I should say so.
    As for Steve’s question, have you seen photos of the giant selenite crystals in Naica, Mexico? They do look remarkably like the ones you’ve shown here.

      • I dress like a Michelin man on the really cold mornings – double gloves, three layers around my torso, snow pants if there’s snow on the ground. I can last for an hour or so, and the place I like to visit is fairly deep in the woods, cuts down on the wind.

      • My boots and socks are “rated” to -40. Thermals and lined jeans. The shirt layers beneath a LLBean Baxter Parka, balaclava and thermal fleece hat. Either subzero rated Marmot fingered gloves or Chas’ Swiss extreme cold weather gloves, liners and heat packs inside. Despite all that, my Raynauds still effects my finger tips. Probably good for an hour also. Brrrrrrr

  2. Pingback: A collection of crystals | Nature Diary

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