The Penitentes, Stunning Snow Formation

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The natural flow of nature often produces some divine effortless creations ever seen to the human eye. On the high altitude glaciers of the dry Andes between Chile and Argentina are some spectacular ones called “Nieves Penitentes”. The Penitentes are tall thin blades of hardened snow formation that points towards the direction of the sun.  They form when the sun’s rays turn snow directly into water vapor without melting it first, a process called sublimation. An initially smooth snow surface first develops depressions as some regions randomly sublimate faster than others. The curved surfaces then concentrate sunlight and speed up sublimation in the depressions, leaving the higher points behind as forests of towering spikes. At the micro-scale, similar-looking spikes help solar cell surfaces maximize their sunlight absorption. Normally found  in clusters, these wondrous formation can grow from few centimeters to about two meters;  some have been recorded to grow up to five.

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