Catch Some Snowflakes to View Under a Microscope

Catch Some Snowflakes to View Under a Microscope

What you will need:

  • box with a lid
  • can of "Crystal Clear*" spray
  • glass microscope slides
  • microscope

* Crystal Clear is a liquid plastic that can be sprayed on a surface and then hardens to form a thin transparent film.

Spray the Crystal Clear onto one of the glass slides and let some snowflakes fall on it. The liquid plastic will slowly creep up over the snowflakes and form a shell that replicates every detail of each snowflake. After the plastic dries you will have a permanent replica.

Before you begin, it is important to leave the box with the spray can and glass slides outdoors overnight so that everything is exactly the same temperature as the falling snow. If the spray or slides are just a little bit warmer, the snowflakes will melt immediately when they land on the plate and be lost.

Now, spray one of the slides with the plastic, holding the slide out into the wind until you are ready to catch the snowflakes. There. Now for the fun part - hold the slide out and in just a few seconds you will have collected enough snowflakes. To keep the slide from getting too much snow, put it back into the box.

Leave the wet slide in the box for several hours until the plastic hardens. Later, when you bring the slide inside, the snowflakes will melt but the plastic shell will remain, preserving the shape of the snowflakes forever!

Once the replicas are dry you can carefully examine the snowflakes under a microscope without worrying about melting them.  If you collect snowflakes you will notice that the beautiful star shaped snowflakes are rather rare. Often you have needle or column shaped crystals or irregular crystals. The shape of each snowflake depends on the variations of temperature and humidity it experiences along its path as it forms within the cloud and falls to the ground. Each snowflake follows a unique path which is why all snowflakes are different from each other.