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Fluorescence is a luminescence that is mostly found as an optical phenomenon in cold bodies, in which the molecular absorption of a photon triggers the emission of a photon with a longer (less energetic) wavelength. The energy difference between the absorbed and emitted photons ends up as molecular rotations, vibrations or heat. Sometimes the absorbed photon is in the ultraviolet range, and the emitted light is in the visible range, but this depends on the absorbance curve and Stokes shift of the particular fluorophore.

The term "fluorescence" was coined by George Gabriel Stokes in his 1852 paper; the name was given as a description of the essence of the mineral fluorite, composed of calcium fluoride, which gave a visible emission when illuminated with "invisible radiation" (UV radiation).