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Sources of light

What are sources of light? That is any source or object which can emits its own light is a source of light. Luminous objects also known as anything that gives off light(light sources) of its own is said to be luminous. Every source of light is a luminous object.

This lesson will give you basic understanding what actually light is and where does it come from.
Sources of light is a very interesting science topic in the curriculum. Light let us see things, also do you know light is made up of waves. These waves from light sources bounce into objects and make them reflectors.

Sun is the Earth's main source of light


[Try Sources of light Quiz 1 and Quiz 2]

Do you know what the Earth’s main source of light is? Yes it is the Sun. The sun is the main source of light on earth.

Without light from the sun, the world would be in darkness. Plants wouldn’t grow and no other life would exist on Earth. The sun gives us energy to survive. Light makes up only a small fraction of the energy that comes to us from the sun.

Types of Light sources

Two types of light sources

  • Natural sources of light
  • Artificial sources of light

Following is a list of light sources

Natural light sources produce light naturally without any human involvement.

Examples of natural sources of light

  • Sun
  • Stars
  • Lightning
  • Fireflies
  • Glowworms
  • Jellyfish
  • Angler fish
  • Viperfish
  • Bush fires
Sources of light - The Sun

The Sun

Artificial light is light made by humans.

Examples of artificial sources of light

  • Light bulbs
  • Torches
  • Lamps
  • Flame by matches
  • Candlelight
  • Lighter
  • Fire
  • Lasers
  • Fireworks
  • When televisions and mobile phones are turned on

Artificial sources of light

What is meant by incandescent?

Emitting light as a result of being heated is called incandescent. This means, when an object is incandescent, it emits light because it is hot. Most of the light sources are incandescent.

Examples of incandescent light sources

  • Sun and other stars
  • Fires
  • Torches
  • Light bulb
  • Electric lamps
  • Candlelight
  • Fire

What is meant by bioluminescent?

Some sources of light emit light without getting hot. These can be both living and non living things. Fluorescent tubes, glow-in-the-dark paints, glow-in-the-dark signs, glow-in-the-dark stickers and sticks, glow-worms, fireflies, jellyfish are some of the examples for light sources that emit light without getting hot.

Living things that emit light without getting hot are referred to as bioluminescent.

Examples of bioluminescent light sources

  • fireflies
  • glow-worms
  • Angler fish
  • Viperfish
  • Black dragonfish
  • Many jellyfish
  • Krill
  • Animals like fireflies and glow-worms emit their own light to attract mates. The firefly’s light energy comes from a chemical reaction that takes place in its abdomen.

The ocean is in complete darkness from a depth of about 1000 metres downwards. This is because, light from the surface does not reach deep below the ocean. This causes problems for the fish to find food. Some deep-sea fish swim closer to the surface to get food whereas some fish spend all of their time in the dark. Angler fish, viperfish and black dragonfish are some of the examples of fish who spend their entire life in the dark.

  • The angler fish lives in the darkness, about 4000 metres below the ocean surface. It wiggles a luminous lure to attract its prey.
  • The viperfish uses bioluminescent lights in its open mouth to entice prey directly into its stomach.
  • The black dragonfish produces red light from a spot just beneath its eye. This allows the dragonfish to see its prey, but the prey cannot see the red light.

Non-luminous objects

Objects which do not emit light or reflect the light from luminous objects are called non-luminous objects. Some non-luminous objects reflect light struck on them from luminous objects. One good example is the moon. The moon just reflects light from the sun.

Reflectors of light

What are Reflectors of light? Reflectors of light cannot emit their own light. They just reflect light.

Examples of reflectors of light

Following is a list of light reflectors;

  • Moon
  • Mirrors
  • Smooth water
  • Metal
  • Smooth and shiny surfaces
examples of reflectors of light - The Moon

The Moon is a reflector of light

examples of reflectors of light

Mirrors are reflectors of light

examples of reflectors of light - Smooth water

You can see the reflection of the trees in the smooth water below

examples of reflectors of light - Smooth water

You can see the reflection of the Sun in the smooth water

examples of reflectors of light - smooth and shiny surfaces

Smooth and shiny surfaces are good reflectors of light

Look at the beautiful reflections of the surrounding environment in the smooth water of this stream.

Reflectors of light - Smooth water
Reflectors of light - Smooth water

Why are mirrors not sources of light?

Mirrors do not make their own light. They just reflect light. That is why you cannot see a mirror in a completely dark room.

Is the moon source of light?

No, it isn’t. The moon is not a source of light because it just reflects light from the Sun.

Remember! You must not look directly at the Sun because, Sun is a very bright object which can damage your eyes very quickly.

Invisible Light

Did you know there is invisible light that your eyes cannot see?

Infrared (IR) and Ultraviolet (UV) are the two types of invisible light. Living things and very hot objects like the Sun give out infrared.

Ultraviolet is very powerful light that is given out by the Sun. UV light can damage your eyes. This is why you shouldn’t directly look at the Sun. Ultraviolet also causes severe sunburn and skin cancer. You should always remember to use sunscreen before exposing to the direct sunlight.

Also, read the lessons How Does Light Travel and Shadows.