Glowing in the Dark

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In this activity, learners explore phosphorescence and how certain materials can absorb and store energy from a light source. Learners use critical thinking skills to hypothesize which type of light -- incandescent, ultraviolet, infrared or fluorescent -- will produce the brightest glow from a glow-in-the-dark star. Learners perform an experiment using cameras to observe the intensity of the resulting glow from each type of light source.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • One lamp fixture
  • One incandescent light bulb - 40 watts
  • One compact fluorescent light bulb - 7 watts
  • One ultraviolet light or black light bulb - 40 watts
  • One infrared or red heat bulb - 40 watts
  • Glow-in-the-dark stars, all in the same size
  • One camera


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
    • Technology
  • Physical Sciences
    • Energy
    • Vibration and Waves
    • Light and Optics
      • Electromagnetic Spectrum
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results
  • The Nature of Technology
    • Technology and Society
      • Impacts of Technology
      • Technology and the Environment

Informal Categories

  • Photography and Film/Video
  • Toys


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Education, Science Friday


  • All rights reserved, Science Friday, 2011