List of Things That Glow in the Dark

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List of Things That Really Glow in the Dark

This is a list of things that glow in the dark, including objects, chemicals, and products that are known to glow via phosphorescence or glow under a black light from fluorescence.

Let's start with the flashing light of a firefly. Fireflies glow to attract mates and also so predators learn to associate the glow with a nasty-tasting meal. The glow is caused by the chemical reaction between luciferin, produced in the tail of the insect, and oxygen from the air.

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Radium Glows in the Dark

Radium is a radioactive element that emits a pale blue color as it decays. However, it is best known for its use in self-luminous paints, which tended to be green. The radium itself didn't emit green light, but the decay of the radium provided the energy to light the phosphor used in the paint. 

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Plutonium Glows in the Dark

Not all radioactive elements glow, but plutonium reacts with oxygen in the air causing it to glow a deep red, like a burning ember. Plutonium doesn't glow from the radiation it gives off, but because the metal essentially burns in air. It's called being pyrophoric.

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Glowsticks or Lightsticks Glow in the Dark

Glowsticks or lightsticks emit light as a result of a chemical reaction or chemiluminescence. Generally, this is a two-part reaction in which energy is evolved and then used to excite a colored fluorescent dye.

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Jellyfish Glow in the Dark

Jellyfish and related species often exhibit bioluminescence. Also, some species contain fluorescent proteins, causing them to glow when exposed to ultraviolet light.

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Foxfire is a type of bioluminescence emitted by some fungi. Foxfire most often glows green, but a rare red light occurs in some species. 

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Glowing Phosphorus

Phosphorus, like plutonium, glows because it is reacting with oxygen in the air. Phosphors and phosphorus glow an eerie green color. Although it glows, phosphorus is not radioactive.

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Glowing Tonic Water

Both regular and diet tonic water contain a chemical called quinine which glows bright blue when exposed to black or ultraviolet light.

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Glowing Paper

Whitening agents are added to bleached paper to help it appear bright. While you don't ordinarily see the whiteners, they cause white paper to appear blue under ultraviolet light.

Other paper may be marked with fluorescent dyes that only appear in certain lighting. Bank notes are a good example. Try looking at one under a fluorescent light or a black light to reveal additional information.

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Glowing Tritium

Tritium is an isotope of the element hydrogen that emits a greenish light. You'll find tritium in some self-luminous paints and gun sights.

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Glowing Radon

Radon is a colorless gas at ordinary room temperatures, but it becomes phosphorescent as it is cooled. Radon glows yellow at its freezing point, deepening toward orange-red as the temperature is lowered even further.

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Fluorescent Coral

Coral is a type of animal related to jellyfish. Like jellyfish, many forms of coral either glow on their own or are fluorescent and glow when exposed to ultraviolet light. Green is the most common glow-in-the-dark color, but red, orange, and other colors also occur.