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An electron in an atom is excited by a photon and moves to a higher energy state. The electron then relaxes and transitions to a lower energy state emitting a photon of longer wavelength than that of the initial photon, producing the glow-in-the-dark effect. I understand this to be called fluorescence.

What then, is the process of absorption and emission of light by everyday objects? Is the leaf on a tree absorbing white light from the sun and fluorescing ~500nm green light with absorption of, say, ~600nm light from the white light? If this is the case, is the rest of the white light lost to non-radiative transitions or invisible emission (to the human eye)? Or is something unrelated to fluorescence happening?

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  • $\begingroup$ i believe regular reflection happens at a much smaller time scale of electron excitation than fluorescence(large time scale between absorption and reemittance) and phophoflourescence and other electronic excitations which are much larger but all still in ns to us humans $\endgroup$
    – ChemEng
    Jan 4, 2021 at 0:04

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I am not at all an expert, but since you didn't get answers I'll make an attempt.

Fluorescence does not play an important role, the color you see is mostly reflected light, which is the incoming light minus the part of the spectrum that got absorbed, which is dependent on the material.

Only a very small part of the absorbed light will be re-emitted (florescence), most of the energy will remain in the object through non-radiative transitions to higher vibrational states, thus increasing the temperature.

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