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A Halo of Light for Central Park

On Monday night at precisely 7:45 p.m., the skies above New York City's Central Park will explode in a ring of fire. More than 10,000 firework shells will be set off to mark the 150th anniversary of Central Park. The project, called Light Cycle, is the brainchild of Chinese pyrotechnic artist Cai Guo-Qiang. The famed Grucci fireworks family, which has been putting on pyrotechnic displays since 1850, will engineer the proceedings.

"We're going to create a 1,000-foot-high, 850-foot-diameter halo over the reservoir in Central Park," project engineer Phil Grucci tells NPR's Scott Simon.

Each shell in the display is fitted with a microchip that controls the timing of its explosion to within one-hundredth of a second. Computers will activate 11,000 shells to launch in 9 seconds. If all goes as planned, Grucci says the event, expected to last four-and-a-half minutes, will be a pyrotechnics milestone.

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Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.