The Names of 10 Fireworks Effects

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To me, their names always were, "The Ones That Do That Shooty Thing," "The Ones That Scream" and "The Ones That Kind of Sparkle Out." Very technical. If you're like me, here's a mini-lesson—try to spot them at whatever fireworks display you attend this Fourth of July.

1. Peony

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This one is apparently the most common, so your chances of spotting it in the skies this weekend are pretty good. It's "a spherical break of colored stars."

2. Chrysanthemum

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This is a variation of the Peony—the difference is that the stars leave a visible trail of sparks. To me, this looks like a fiber optic ball or those balls that you put your hand on to attract the current at science museums and the like.

3. Willow

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I love this one! It's a lot like the Peony and its variations (the Chrysanthemum and the Dahlia), but it leaves trails of silver or gold stars that produce a weeping willow-ish outline.

4. Horsetail

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It's a compact little burst that falls down, well, like a horsetail. You might also hear this one referred to as a Waterfall Shell.

5. Fish

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The shell bursts and then you see little squiggles of light squirming away from the main burst. The effect looks like fish swimming away. Or sperm. Whatever.

6. Spider

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This one is fast-burning and bursts very hard, which makes the stars shoot out straight and flat. Basically, they look like lots of spider legs.

7. Palm

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This one produces an effect that looks like a palm tree when it bursts (go figure). Some even have a thick tail that looks like a trunk.

8. Crossette

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Take lots of tic-tac-toe boards and cross them over each other haphazardly. That's kind of what the crossette looks like. It's usually accompanied by a loud crackling noise.

9. Kamuro

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Named after a Japanese hairstyle, this one has a dense burst that leaves a glittery trail.

10. Rings

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I like these because they can be arranged to look like atoms, which is very mental_floss-y. But typically you see rings within rings, like the ones in the picture.

For more fireworks effects and help on spotting them, take this quiz on PBS.org.

This Quick 10 originally ran in 2009.

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July 3, 2014 - 10:04am
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