They say Winter is the most beautiful season, with its towering snow mounds and glittering icicles, but after two blizzards, I think it's time for some color. Bright warm brilliant fires will do nicely.
You may have noticed over the course of your life that fire can be different colors. From the everyday golden flames on candles, to bright blue ones on gas stoves. Or fireworks, brightly colored specks that etch the nighttime sky. In any case, these colorful flames have intrigued the world, but how exactly are they formed? To understand, we have to go back to the question, "What is fire?"
Fire is a side effect of matter changing between states. It's the result of oxygen binding with a fuel. When a fuel is heated up to its ignition temperature, parts of the fuel are decomposed into volatile gases. We know them as smoke. The parts that are not burned into smoke is called char. When the gases are hot enough, hotter than the ignition temperature, their molecules break down into hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen. These elements bind with the oxygen in the air to form molecules such as water(vapor), carbon dioxide, and other gases. This is the physical part of fire. The colorful part that allows us to see it is made of light.
When atoms gain energy, in this case by being heated, their electrons jump into different levels, allowing them to hold more energy. When they decide to release that energy, it escapes as light. Because the atom always releases the same amount of energy as it gains, depending on how much energy was gained, the color of the fire is decided. An atom that received more energy will loose more energy, giving it a color that is higher on the color spectrum. Different elements release different amounts of energy, and different amounts of heat cause elements to release different amounts of energy, so when the fuel and or heat of a fire is changed, the color changes as well.