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The snowflake catcher: Snowflakes come in 121 types, and some you might see only once

By Zhao Ying


"Every detail or pattern of a snowflake reflects what it goes through in the cloud. When falling to the ground, the snowflake must be unique. It's just like the humans - no two people can have identical experiences," said Zhang Chao, an enthusiastic fan of snowflakes. 

Working at the National Astronomical Observatories (NAOC), Zhang often observes stars through a telescope. But he also enjoys using a microscope to see everything around him, from snowflakes to sand, which opens an amazing new world to him. 

Photographing snowflakes is not as easy as it seems. Apart from reading different snow forecasts to know when the snow will arrive, Zhang has to freeze his self-assembled telescope and slides outdoors for around 20 minutes to ensure the snow won't melt before being photographed. Then comes the real thing: capturing portraits of these snowflakes. 

Contrary to popular belief, snowflakes come in 121 types, and Zhang has photographed over 80 of them since 2005, and he has no intention of stopping, because they always surprise him with their enchanting beauty.

(Cover image designed by Liu Shaozhen and Li Yueyun; video shot by Gao Peng and Liu Wenxuan; directed and edited by Zhao Ying.)

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at nature@cgtn.com.)

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