Guide to Aerial Effects

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Ever wanted to know the name of your favorite type of fireworks effects, or just wanted to understand what pyros are talking about when they mention things like “chrysanthemum” and “palm trees”?  These are all the different types of aerial effects used in both consumer and display fireworks.  Nowadays, many consumer fireworks have labels that describe the performance, so it may be helpful for you to know what these terms mean when it comes time to pick out your fireworks.  Many of these are already listed on the Pyrotechnic Glossary page.

Atomic Pattern – a shell burst consisting of three circles on three different planes, which resembles the orbits of electrons around a nucleus

Battle in the Clouds – a shell that creates several loud reports after bursting

Bees – see Hummer

Comet – basically a large star that emits thick showers of bright sparks on the way up

Chrysanthemum – a dense, spherical burst of stars that retains its shape before fading.  This is the most well-known type of firework shell break.

Crackle – clusters of small, sharp reports

Crossette – a comet that contains an internal burst charge of flash/black powder that causes it to burst into several (usually four) fragments

Dragon Eggs – clusters of crackling sparks in the air

Glitter – stars that flash only once each

Hummer – a small tube filled with pyrotechnic composition and plugged at both ends, with an angles hole in the side.  Upon ignition, the device spins around very rapidly.  At one point during each revolution, the hole (which is producing the sound) is pointed towards the observer, who perceives it as a “humming” sound.

Palm tree – a comet shell that burns with a thick tail of sparks on the way up, then breaks several spreading ” branches ” of sparks

Peony – loosely symmetrical break of stars without trails that fly outward and then begin to droop downward

Ring shell – a burst that produces a symmetrical ring of stars

Salute – loud report and white flash without stars or colors

Shell of Shells – a large shell that contains smaller shells as well as stars, and upon bursting ignite the smaller shells and create secondary bursts

Strobe – bright stars that each flash repeatedly

Weeping Willow – a downward break of charcoal-rich stars that resembles the drooping branches of a willow tree.  The stars give off thick trails of orange sparks which hang in the air for a long time

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