Nothing says “happy birthday, America!” quite like a big, loud and colorful fireworks display. But have you ever wondered what creates the colors we see?

The answer actually involves quite a bit of science. But this time it’s not weather-related. It’s all about chemistry. 

Each firework shell that gets launched contains gunpowder and dozens of pieces of explosive material called “stars.” The stars all contain different types of chemical compounds. The compounds are what ignite and burn to produce the fabulous colors and exciting sounds. 

The type of chemical compound will determine the color. That’s because different chemicals burn at different temperatures and as a result go through differing intensities of reactions that release tons of energy. The results of those violent reactions are the bright colors of the fireworks.

Watch this week’s Heather’s Weather Whys to see which chemical compounds are behind your favorites:

New episodes of Heather’s Weather Whys are posted to the WGRZ YouTube channel every Wednesday evening. You can also watch the current week’s topic every Thursday evening at 5:30 on Channel 2.

If you have a weather or science question for Heather to answer, send it to her on Facebook or Twitter.

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