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Emission of light from a substance exposed to radiation and persisting as an afterglow after the exciting radiation has been removed. Unlike fluorescence, in which the absorbed light is emitted about 108 second after excitation, in phosphorescence the extra energy absorbed is stored in metastable states and reemitted later. Phosphorescence may last from about 103 second to days or even years. The term phosphorescence is often applied to luminescence of living organisms, as well.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on phosphorescence, visit Britannica.com.