Holiday Zen: the sea’s glittering lights

A favorite sea phenomenon – bioluminescence, or the living lights of the ocean.

Kick back and enjoy a moment of deep sea wonder in this holiday season:

It never gets old for many, including Dr. Edith Widder, who studies bioluminescence in sea creatures:

“During my first open ocean dive, I went down to 800 feet and turned out the lights. I knew I would see bioluminescence, but I was totally unprepared for how much. It was incredible! There were explosions of light everywhere, like being in the middle of a silent fireworks display.”

Watch scientists on The Ocean Portal describe the bioluminescence they’ve encountered in the sea, read The Naked Scientists’ interview with Dr. Widder, and soak up info from The Bioluminescence Web Page by UCSB.

Pic o’ the week – bioluminescent jellyfish

Our ocean pic of the week — a planktonic jellyfish with bright green fluorescent tentacles. The red fluorescence in the middle of the jellyfish is from chlorophyll in a recent meal of algae.

NOAA Ocean Explorer: Islands in the Stream 2002

This pic is from NOAA’s Operation Deep Scope 2005 Expedition – a research cruise in the Gulf of Mexico’s deep waters off Florida.

Some scientists on the expedition set out to study light in the ocean – color, fluorescence, polarization, vision and bioluminescence.

Dr. Edith Widder, a senior scientist on the trip, said her first sight of luminescence in the ocean’s depths changed her life:

“Seeing lights in the ocean – the living lights of bioluminescence observed from a submersible – is the event that set me on my uncommon career path … I was also convinced that bioluminescence had to be one of the most beautiful and important phenomena in the ocean. It seemed like it was everywhere and there was so much of it.”

Image courtesy Dr. Mikhail Matz and NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration & Research