What is a Luminous Source? - Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:04 What Is a Luminous Source?
  • 0:52 Examples of Luminous Sources
  • 1:39 Reflection
  • 2:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Mary Beth Burns

Mary Beth has taught 1st, 4th and 5th grade and has a specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She is currently an assistant principal.

Although our eyes play an important role in being able to see, they actually are not the most important part of seeing. Without light, our eyes, no matter how great our eyesight, would not be able to see anything. This lesson will 'show' you how we are able to see objects.

What Is a Luminous Source?

Can you imagine what the world would be like without light? It'd be a pretty dark place - literally and figuratively. You wouldn't be able to see all of the wonderful things around you, like your house or your family or a beautiful mountain scene.

You need light in order to see objects, but there are some objects that emit, or give off, their own light. These are known as luminous sources. Generally speaking, luminous sources shine or glow, and they are the reason you can see.

Scientifically speaking, luminosity is the amount of light that a luminous source provides. A candela is the unit of measurement for luminosity. A candela was originally called a candle or candlepower because it represents the brightness of one candle.

Examples of Luminous Sources

Luminous sources are all around you, both man-made and in nature. Here are a few examples.

Man-made luminous sources include:

  • Lighted candles
  • Lamps
  • Headlights on cars
  • Flashlights

Natural luminous sources include:

  • Sun
  • Stars
  • Fire
  • Fireflies

Not only are fireflies luminous sources, they are also bioluminescent, meaning it is a living thing that can create its own light. Glowworms, jellyfish, and squid are just a few examples of bioluminescent creatures. There are also many kinds of fungi and bacteria that are bioluminescent, as well. If you were a bioluminescent creature, you could be known as a 'human flashlight'!


You already know that there are many objects out there that are non-luminous. Tables, chairs, dogs, cats, and even humans, do not give off light. So how do you see them? Reflection! Because of reflection, objects that are not luminous can still be seen.

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