Here's how your Fourth of July fireworks work

A Fourth of July celebration wouldn't be complete without big bursts of colorful explosives lighting up the summer sky at dusk.

And while you're taking in the big show, you might be wondering: How exactly do fireworks work? How is it that there are fabulous, colorful explosions in the sky that can be shaped into anything from smiley faces to hearts?

We're here to fill you in. The short answer? It's a whole lot of chemical reactions happening at once.

It all boils down to an explosion

Simply, a firework is a container — typically a tube or a ball shape — that holds explosives hitched up to a time-delay fuse.

The explosives are where the fun happens. They typically contain little balls of colored explosives called "stars." These are filled with colors that blaze brightly in the sky, but after only a certain amount of time has passed. This is why fireworks can get up high in the sky before exploding into brilliance.

When the fuse gets low enough in the firework, it reacts with a bursting charge, which in turn lights the explosives that will disperse the stars. The ignited explosive creates a high-pressure gas that blows the colorful stars outward.

Here's what that looks like:How fireworks work animation_05Mike Nudelman/Business Insider

Chemical reactions create the colors

The colors that sparkle in the sky are chemical reactions happening right before your eyes.

Inside every star is an oxidizing agent, fuel, a certain metal that acts as the color, and a binder that holds it all together. The fuel and oxidizing agent are the parts responsible for the intense heat and gas of the explosion, according to the American Chemical Society.

But the coolest part is the metals that act as the colors. Some just heat up and cycle through red, orange, yellow, and white, depending on how hot the explosion is. The heat makes the atoms inside the wire move faster and faster, causing the atoms to bump into each other more, which gives off light. If you can control the temperature of the firework, then you can pick the exact time you want that firework to be a certain color.

Related: Best recipes this July 4

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17 perfect July 4th appetizers
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17 perfect July 4th appetizers

A healthy dip in red, white and blue.

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Sweet, tangy and perfect for nibbling.

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Image credit: Liz Andrews/Erin McDowell

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This lighter take on the classic will leave plenty of room for all those hot dogs and burgers later.

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Drizzled with balsamic glaze for extra sweetness.

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A fun twist on a party favorite.   

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Save time on this crowd-pleasing 4th of July appetizer by using store-bought Naan for the base.

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Putting avocados on the grill gives this dip a delicious, smoky flavor.

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How many seasonal ingredients can you fit onto a baguette? This many.

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Italian-style antipasti dipped in tangy yogurt.

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Best when served with a spicy Margarita

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Because everything tastes better when it’s mini.

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A pretty dish bursting with summer flavor.

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Cool down in the heat with this refreshing Greek dip.

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A fun way to use up your farmer’s market haul.

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An impressive dish that can be thrown together in less than 15 minutes? Perfection.

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Your favorite restaurant app is surprisingly easy to make at home (and just as delicious).

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Quick, easy and no chopsticks required.

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But more commonly, fireworks create light by letting off specific colors that depend based on what metals you add to the mix.

For a complete display, fireworks often mix different metals and metal salts to give you the vibrant, multicolored effects. Calcium salts will burn orange, while sodium salts will burn yellow.

And if you burn copper, it'll give off light that's blue-green.

burning copperYouTube/Kimberly Stites

The shapes are the product of some careful organization

Fascinated by that smiley face or oddly lopsided heart in a firework display? It's nothing more than some careful organization of the stars. If they're just spread randomly, they'll expand out evenly through the sky once they explode.

But, because the explosion will push the stars out in a predictable trajectory, it is possible to organize the stars in a particular pattern on the cardboard cylinder on the outside of the firework. This will create specific shapes.

The big, booming sound comes from expanding gases

No fireworks display would be complete without the ear-shattering booms that freak out dogs and resonate in our chests. That's caused by a sonic boom that happens as the gases inside the firework expand faster than the speed of sound.

Throw all of these explosives and awesome chemistry together and you get this:

colorful fireworksYouTube/Armadillo1991

Related: Cute puppies celebrate July 4:

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Patriotic Dogs for July 4
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Patriotic Dogs for July 4
If this doesn't put a smile on your face on a day that is difficult for so many I don't know what will. #neverforget #911memorial #Repost @pupbox with @repostapp. ・・・ Today we stand united and remember the fallen! #neverforget 🇺🇸 @tuckerdouglasbojangles #911 #patrioticpuppy #patrioticpuppy #homeofthebrave #america #gloriousgoldens #golden #goldenretriever #goldenretrieverpuppy #instapuppy #dailypuppy #puppiesofinstagram #newpuppy #cutepuppy #mansbestfriend #pupbox #dogsoffreedom
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Thank you @mochathelabradoodle for tagging me in #thebestdogphotosever challenge! Here's one of my favorite pictures: a fresh haircut / bath and a patriotic bandana 🐶🇺🇸 this is my entry into the #unleashedmodelsearchpt2 ! 🐾 @point.of.roux, you're up! #TheConnerChronicles #poodle #puppy #poodlepuppy #dog #dogstagram #dogsofinstagram #poodlesofinstagram #haircut #bath #freshcut #patriotic #bandana #America #USA #patrioticpuppy #Murica #cute #baby #summer #happyfriday #pup
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'Merica. #diesel #patrioticpuppy
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It's Memorial Day! I know I seem obsessed with barbecues and food, but today it's all about the brave service men and women who have given and sacrificed so much for our country. We can't thank you enough. Happy Memorial Day - if you are lucky enough to see a soldier, give them a big lick! #respectoursoldiers #memorialday #memorialday2016 #loveoursoldiers #patrioticdogs #carmeldogs
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Hi guys! It's finally here!! Be sure to check me out in this month's edition of @rilocalmag !! #thespottedsharpei #olivernunzio #petsthatloveamerica #sharpei #minisharpei #floweredsharpei #mypuppy #cutepuppy #sharpeiofinsta #sharpeioftheworld #patrioticpuppy #puppyoftheday
Mom says I look pretty cute in red, white & blue! Have a safe & happy 4th of July! #redwhiteblue #4thofjuly #patrioticdogs ❤️🇺🇸💙 #beagle #beaglepuppy #puppy #scoutmcgoogle #beaglemania #beaglesofinstagram #dogsofinstagram #igdogs #instapuppy #puppylove #beaglelove #ilovemypup #mansbestfriend #dailydog #dogs #beagles #beagleclub #ilovemybeagle #beaglenation #pet #dog #instadog #puppies #dogoftheday #insta_dogs #justbeagles
#independenceday #4thofjuly #patrioticdogs#america #dogs. #americandog #americandogs
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America the GREAT! 🇺🇸🍉✨ #PatrioticPuppy #CostaMesa #America #4thofJuly #OrangeCounty #Flag #TooCute
Anniedog can be very patriotic. Especially when string cheese is involved. #australianshepherdsofinstagram #dogsofinstagram #patrioticdogs #aussienation #australianshepherd #redwhiteandblue
I believe that we will win! #wwc #worldcup #us #usa #soccer #beatjapan #ibelieve #yellowlab #puppy #patrioticpuppy #redwhiteandblue
A little late, but I am patriotic 🇺🇸✌🏼️ #usa #patrioticpuppy #boxer #boxergram #euroboxer #boxersofinstagram
Happy 4th of July! More food, less loud popping things please. #dogsofinstagram #sheltie #sheltielove #happyfourthofjuly #july4th #redwhiteblue #patrioticdogs
Happy #FourthOfJuly 🇺🇸 repost from @itshazle from the #HiPuppy family! #hipuppycares #hipuppy #patrioticdogs
Introducing the newest addition to our little family, Waylon J Newnam. #waylonthechessie #chesapeakebayretriever #chesapeakesofinstagram #puppy #corral #cowgirlboots #starsandstripes #corralboots #chessie #waylon #waylonjennings #classiccountry #futurenewnam #waylonnewnam #puppylife #joy #playtime #america #patriotic #patrioticpuppy #americanpuppy
Major is a very patriotic guy! ❤️💙
It's #MemorialDayWeekend, everyone! 🎉 I don't know about you folks, but I sure am thankful for all of the brave men & women who have served & are currently serving our country daily, as well as their loyal families who are supporting them behind the scenes! I'm sporting my favorite bandana this weekend in remembrance of all of those brave hoomans who have served our great nation! ❤️💙🇺🇸 || This is my entry for the #ShowUsYourBestSmileContest hosted by @scoutgoldenretriever, @unleashthehounds, @marley_shiloh_the_goldens, @grayhoundcollections, @thegoldentwo, & @zippypaws 🎉🐾
I AM an #AmericanWiener ! 🇺🇸🇺🇸 Hosted by @dachshundswag @herecomesmeatball @the_smoothe_store @frank.wayne.weenie.wonder Let freedom ring, and don't forget to thank a service member for their service! #lovemycountry #patrioticdogs #StarsAndStripes #dachshundsofinstagram #featuremydoxie #lovemywiener #doxielove #dachshund #pnwdachshunds #dachshundoftheday #doxieofthedday #dachshundsonly #minidachshund #chiweenienation #chiweenie #sausagedog #sausagedogcentral
Happy 4th of July 🇺🇸 Love, Mako & Bella 💙❤️ #mako #Bella #4thofjuly #merica #patrioticdogs #instadog #bullterrier #frenchbulldog #redwhiteandblue
🇺🇸 Wishing everyone a safe and happy Memorial Day! 🇺🇸
HOME of the FREE, Because of the BRAVE! Wishing you and your families a Happy Memorial Day!❤️🇺🇸💙 #godblessamerica #homeofthefree #patrioticpuppy #blessed #retrieversagram #golden #goldenpuppy #animallovers #puppiesofinstagram #pupstagrams #dailyfluff #ilovegolden_retrievers #dogs_features #thedailygolden #goldensoninstagram #goldenretrieverft #sendadogphoto #cute #dog
#HappyMemorialDay from BOLT! Take time to #remember those who #gaveall so can #celebrate our #freedom and #rights that many lives were #sacrificed to #protect them! #memorialday #memorialdayweekend #patriotic #patrioticpuppy #USA #America #thankful #grateful #whitegermanshepherd #GSDpuppy #GSD #germanshepherdpuppy #germanshepherddog #germanshepherd #puppysmile #happypuppy #happy #puppy #puppies #puppygram #instapuppy #puppiesofinstagram
#patrioticpooches #patrioticdogs #thordogofthunder #thorthewonderdog #redwhiteandblue #freyagirl #freyagoddessoflove #sunny #golfcourse
I'm an Olly doodle dandy 🐶🇺🇸 In between the burgers and BBQs, don't forget the real reason for today is to celebrate our brave servicemen and women who protect our country, like my Uncle Kyle in the Coast Guard! ⚓️ #uscg #godblesstheusa #mdw #patrioticpuppy #starsandstripesfurever #goodgollymisterolly #goldendoodlesofinstagram #goldendoodlesofinsta #goldendoodle #welovedoodles #doodlelove #doodlesofPA #dogsofinstagram
Happy #MemorialDay to those who have served this land that I love so bravely throughout our nation's history! We are so thankful for the sacrifices you have made for our freedoms! ❤️💙🇺🇸 | This is my entry for the #ShowUsYourBestSmileContest hosted by @scoutgoldenretriever, @unleashthehounds, & @zippypaws 🎉🐾
#memorialday2016 #photoshoot #puppylove 🐶💙🇺🇸 @jimmyfallonthedog ... #blackandwhite #bnw #bnw_society #blackandwhitephoto #bandw #blackandwhitephotography #photo #photography #photographer #nikon #nikond5300 #nikond5300photography #animalphotography #dogoftheday #dogsofinstagram #goldenstate #traveldog #proudpuppy #californiadog #bnw_captures #bnwphotography #bullterriermix #rescuemutt #rescuedog #muttnation #muttstagram #patrioticpuppy
This American #PitBull mix is looking so cute in her new bandana. #PatrioticPuppy #PitbullPuppy #Stella
Happy Inpawpendence Day! #patrioticpooches #bella #oneeyebeast #labbielove #googe #deafdogsrock #bulldog #bullielove #piggie #pitbull #pittielove #stopbsl
Dad has the day off work!! And we are going to the beach! Best day ever. 😄🐳🐾🌴🌞 #lifeisgood #gloriousgoldens #goldens_ofinstagram #beachday #welovegoldens #ilovegolden_retrievers #dogsofinstagram #patrioticpuppy #frolickingfriday #tgif
Getting ready for the 4th! #patrioticpuppy #creed #cutestever #bae
Happy 4th of July! #independenceday #patrioticpooches #worldoflabs #dexterslaboratory #bluecollarenzo
Let's go for a ride! 😁 #patrioticpuppy #bandana #4wheeler
Okay okay one more #IndependenceDay themed photo. I'm 5 months old now and a whopping 27 pounds! And dad gave me a handkerchief. I'm gettin' old! #HappyFourth #FourthofJuly #July #Summer #Fireworks #PatrioticPuppy #Merica #LandThatILove #StarsAndStripes #goldendoodle #goldendoodlesofinstagram #goldendoodlepuppy #growingpuppy
HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA! 🇺🇸 239 years looks good on you! I'm 15 weeks old today. Not quite as old as you are but I'm working on it! 🐾🇺🇸🐾🇺🇸🐾🇺🇸 #kuww #julyfourth #freedom #patrioticpuppy
"Happy birthday, America. You're beautiful." -@_theodicaprio
Happy 4th of July!! 🇺🇸🐶❤️ #patrioticpuppy #minisussie #shepherd #australianshepherd #usa #fourthofjuly
Happy 4th from the rescued pup Kyus! #patrioticpuppy 💯
Happy Birthday America! 🇺🇸🗽🎆 #fourthofjuly #4thofjuly #independenceday #freedom #godblessamerica #happy4thofjuly #puppy #yorkie #yorkiesofinstagram #proudtobeanamerican #puppiesofinstagram #Merica #starsandstripes #patrioticpuppy
I posed for your picture, now grill me a hot dog please!🇺🇸
Happy 4th of July from Mia #GoldenRetriever #PatrioticPuppy 🇺🇸😍
My little 4th of July puppy #patrioticpuppy #happy4th
Happy 4th of July to all my furry friends. Make sure you find a good place to hide tonight. These firework things make me go nuts❤🐶🐾🎆 #4thofjuly #fireworkday #redwhiteandblue #patrioticpuppy #dogsofinstagram #puppiesofinstagram #mydogscuterthanyours #mydogiscutest #instadaily #photooftheday #pomchisofinstagram #pomchi #pomchilove #zoeygirl #socute
#happy4thofjuly
Happy 4th #valentine #staysafe #merica #patrioticpuppy #fourthofjuly #deafdog
#berger #patrioticpuppy #pittie #pittiesofinstagram #happy4thofjuly
#Repost @katylynnmck. That's my Neice cute dog 😘😘 ・・・ 🇺🇸HAPPY 4th! 💥#truepup #truemckegney #america #fourthofjuly #DC #dogsofinstagram #patrioticpuppy
🇺🇸🐾💥Happy 4th Of July💥🐾🇺🇸 #4thofjuly #america #patrioticpuppy #redwhiteblue #dogsofinstagram #dogfashionista #dogsiescatsies #ilovemydog #chihuahua #dog #doggy #prettypuppy #merica #mustlovedogs #dogsofbr #dogsofnola #dogsoflouisiana #usa #julyfourth #2015
Jack Daniels wanted to wish everyone a happy & safe 4th of July! We love Mericaaaaaa 🇺🇸❤️💙 #Germanshepherd #4thofjuly #allamericanpup #america #landofthefree #becauseofthebrave #patrioticpuppy
Happy 4th of July! #worldoflabs #talesofalab #patrioticpuppy #dogsofinstagram #labrador #whitelab #yellowlab #america #nashpuppy #independenceday #tol4th @worldoflabs @talesofalab
Happy birthday America. 🇺🇸🐶❤️ #lakelife #puremichigan #patrioticpuppy #denim #4thofjuly
Happy 4th of July from Me, Trotsky, and Belle!! 🇺🇸🎉 #Happy4thOfJuly #PatrioticPuppy #CCI #caninecompanionsforindependence #CCIPuppy #WeAreIndependence #CCICOC #ChangeOfCareer #ProudPuppyRaiser #ServiceDogInTraining #FutureAssistanceDog #DogsOfInstagram #LabsOfInstagram #NoFilter #TooCute #Belle #Tawny
Happy 4th of July, everyone! #happyfourthofjuly #independenceday #patrioticpuppy
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Let's get this party started!! 🐶❤️🇺🇸 #patrioticpuppy #happyfourthofjuly #4thofjuly #merica #america #independenceday #dailydog #americandog #americanpuppy
Happy 4th of July! !! #4thofjuly #patrioticpuppy #boxerpuppies #boxersofinstagram #instaboxer #lovemyboxer #europeanboxers #holidayweekend #flag #dogsofinstagramsg #boxergram #boxers
I'm in the spirit. Yes I am. 🇺🇸🐶🇺🇸🐶🇺🇸 ( side note- this will also double as my Apollo Creed Haloween costume) #patrioticpuppy #americanpup #july4 #ootd ##rescue #adoptdontshop #socialteesnyc #maltipoo #poodle #maltese #puppy #puppies #dog #dogs #dogsofinstagram #puppiesofinstagram
We hope everyone has had a great start to a #LongWeekend 🇺🇸🐶❤️🐶💙 #Happy4OfJuly #RedWhiteAndBlue #RedWhiteBlue #Brothers #BrotherlyLove #PicOfTheDay #POTD #American #America #MiniSchnauzer #MiniatureSchnauzer #Schnauzer #SchnauzersOfInstagram #Summer #Adorable #TooCute #July #Patriotic #PatrioticPuppy #DogsOfInstagram #DogDaysOfSummer
#patrioticpuppy #cuteness #upstaterelaxation
My little patriot #willie #dogsofinstagram #sadeyes #dogbless #puppylove #patrioticpuppy #unclesam #julyfourth #dogblessamerica
Little Jack looking all patriotic #mrcool #4thofjuly #patrioticpuppy #usa #boxersofinstagram #instaboxer #lovemyboxer #whiteboxer #boxerpuppies #babydogs #dogsofinstagramsg
USA!!! #winnie #puppy #blacklab #blackblob #blacklabofinsta #labsofinstagram #justlabradors #tol4th #talesofalab #worldofmylab #fab_labs_ #patrioticpuppy
Little handsome #american selfie #carin #patrioticpuppy #love
#patrioticpuppy 🇺🇸
I'm all ready for the 4th! 🇺🇸🐾 #Merica #TitusTheBully #PatrioticPuppy #GreatDaneBull #PuppiesOfInstagram #DogsOfInstagram #DontBullyMyBreed
Going down these scary stairs and I can't stop!! #murrayandmilo #goldenbrothers #gloriousgoldens #cute #puppies #dailygolden #instapuppy #dailypuppy #pupbox #patrioticpuppy @pupbox
And of course I couldn't not post this pic of SHILOH being a good sport and looking super cute. Sorry for the #puppyspam! #paws4people #paws4vets #patrioticpuppy #goldenretriever #goldenretrieverpuppy
As you spend time with your loved ones today, please remember the reason for the day off! #HappyMemorialDay #somegaveall #paws4people #paws4vets #servicedogintraining #servicedog #goldador #lab #goldenretriever #labradorretriever #labpuppy #goldenpuppy #puppy #patrioticpuppy #BANKS #retrieverlife #worldoflabs #dailypuppy
Getting the bow tie line up ready for summer! #merica #dogsofinstagram #dogstagram #patrioticpuppy #harlithehouseelf
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Jennifer Welsh contributed to an earlier version of this article.

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