Fireworks in a jar by Tandralee

Fireworks in a jar by Tandralee

This image illustrates the Rayleigh-Taylor instability, which is an instability occurring at the interface between two fluids of different densities. It occurs when the lighter fluid displaces the heavier one. In this particular case, a lighter oil mixed with food coloring dye is displacing the denser water. As a result of this instability, the dye permeates downward, creating a mesmerizing, firework-like pattern. This phenomenon is aptly named “Fireworks in a Jar.”


Sharp, D. H. (1984). An overview of Rayleigh-Taylor instability. Physica D: Nonlinear Phenomena12(1–3), 3–18.

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7 Comments. Leave new

  • Maddie O'Brien
    Sep 20, 2023 13:01

    Hi Tandralee,

    I really like how much depth there is in this image; within the fluid flow, but also with the composition of the foreground, background, etc. I know there was some discussion about capturing the flow on a macro level. I think that could be really cool, but artistically I personally like the lines in the background.

    – Maddie

  • Nicole Nageli
    Sep 19, 2023 04:58

    Hi, Tandralee! Something that makes your piece stand out is that not only did you capture the instability at different stages, but you also have a view of the surface of the liquids. I think it illustrates in a single image, the way the dye starts off, trails down, and dissipates into the liquid. I think the image would benefit from some cropping to see this clearer.

  • Cameron Sprenger
    Sep 18, 2023 13:04

    I think you captured the flow at exactly the right moment because you can clearly see the drops of dye that are sinking as well as the trails that are left behind. Adding oil to the top surface is cool because the dye get covered in a layer of oil that it needs to break through before it can mix with the water. I mentioned this a bit during the critique, but focusing on clear fluids like air and water make it hard to focus on. A trick to getting the focus where you want it for an experiment like this on is to use a ruler (or some other reference) to focus on first. You would place the ruler in the place that you want to photograph, then focus on it either manually or with automatic focus, then once the focus is set, switching the camera to auto focus to lock in that plane.

    • Tandralee Chetia
      Sep 23, 2023 20:30

      Thank you so much for your inputs. I will definitely try these out for the next Get Wet

  • Nice


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