When I glance at the sun, or a bare light bulb, I find that when I blink, or move my eyes, a superimposed image of the bright object appears wherever I look. What is this called?

  • 3
    Compare phosphene, which is the same kind of image only not produced by light.
    – Robusto
    Jul 5, 2011 at 14:10
  • It also happens with sustained exposure to bright colors; however the after image is always the exact opposite on the color wheel, and of equal intensity. Apr 26, 2021 at 19:05

3 Answers 3


An after-image.

Oxford English Dictionary:

"The impression retained by the retina of the eye, or by any other organ of sense, of a vivid sensation, after the external cause has been removed."

  • I was going to say this, but the rescources that I used refered to after-image as mainly an optical illusion, not the condition of being exposed to a bright light. Jul 5, 2011 at 13:40
  • @Colin: Does this definition include sounds impressed on the ear?
    – Daniel
    Jul 5, 2011 at 13:45
  • @drm65: why are you asking me? Your interpretation of the OED is as valid as mine.
    – Colin Fine
    Jul 5, 2011 at 13:50
  • @colin: Now that is a compliment!
    – Daniel
    Jul 5, 2011 at 13:57

Flash blindness

  • Though I think flash blindness means that your entire vision is impaired; this isn't quite the same thing.
    – Daniel
    Jul 5, 2011 at 13:44
  • I would say that my vision is impared if I have a giant round ball of light where my retina's got over exposed, lol. Jul 5, 2011 at 13:45
  • The point was "entire" - not "impaired". Flash blindness appears to imply that the whole vision is affected, not just a part.
    – Daniel
    Jul 5, 2011 at 13:47

You used to get this with plasma televisions and it was called burn-in. Perhaps visual burn-in applies?

  • It sounds a little contrived or vernacular, but I suppose it might work somewhere.
    – Daniel
    Jul 5, 2011 at 14:05
  • No, visual burn does exist, but is something different. Sometimes called 'navigator's eyeball', it refers to a condition where constantly looking at a bright light, (such as the sun through a sextant) has left a patch of the eyeball permanently impaired. Jul 5, 2011 at 14:56

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