While snowflakes - those fluffy conglomerations of frozen ice crystals may appear to be indistinguishable from one another, they are all unique in structure, and come in all kinds of really cool shapes and patterns. However so far, the only way to discover this has been by viewing them under a microscope, which means that only a select few have been able enjoy and appreciate their true beauty. But, things are about to change.
A team of researchers from the University of Utah has invented a camera that captures images of these tiny ice crystals in their full 3-Dimensional glory, as they are falling. The Multi Angle Snowflake Camera (MASC), which uses three high-speed cameras that are triggered by infrared sensors, is also capable of measuring the rate at which the flakes are falling thanks to its super fast 1/25000 second, exposure timing - Something that has not been possible, prior to this.
While the camera will open up a whole up a new world of beauty for amateur and professional photographers, it is also being lauded as a big scientific breakthrough - That's because the images will help scientists better understand snowfalls, which in turn, will enable them to forecast winter storms more accurately.
According to atmospheric scientist Tim Garret, who is the lead researcher on the project, the current prediction models are based off measurements from the images of a few thousand snowflakes that were each painstakingly done by hand in the 1970's and are therefore, not as reliable.
Using the MASC, scientists and weather forecasters will be able photograph and measure tens of thousands of snowflakes in one single night - leading to more accurate predictions. Besides being useful for ski resorts, the camera is also going to be invaluable for things like avalanche predictions which, is what the US army is currently using it for.
As for the rest of us? We will just have to be a little patient. Mr. Garret and his partner Cale Fallgatter have formed Fallgatter Technologies, to bring this amazing invention to stores in the very near future. We wonder if the MASC can also be used to take 3D images of other things and how those would turn out!
Resources: news.discovery.com, dailymail.co.uk