1. Light from nonthermal sources; SYN. glow.
2. Light not due to incandescence; occurs at low temperatures.
Emission of light from a body when its atoms are excited by means other than raising its temperature. Short-lived luminescence is called fluorescence; longer-lived luminescence is called phosphorescence.
When exposed to an external source of energy, the outer electrons in atoms of a luminescent substance absorb energy and “jump” to a higher energy level. When these electrons “jump” back to their former level they emit their excess energy as light. Many different exciting mechanisms are possible: visible light or other forms of electromagnetic radiation (ultraviolet rays or X-rays), electron bombardment, chemical reactions, friction, and radioactivity. Certain living organisms produce bioluminescence.