eli5: The factors that need to be looked into for seeing bioluminescence

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I mean, i’ve been out touring this city’s beaches (known for and observed with bioluminescence) late at night for a while now, yet haven’t been able to get my sight on anything. The locals in the area all seem to have different explanations, and i essentially haven’t been able to find a reliable explanation as to how this phenomenon works and can be seen.

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The organism you are likely seeing is called a sea sparkle

Bioluminescence is created by luciferase. Luciferase is an enzyme. This is a protein which acts as a catalyst. Luciferase changes luciferin into luciferyladenylate. When luciferyladenylate reacts with oxygen, a few products are created. Light being one.

Note that luciferase and luciferin are not a name for a substance, but rather of a group of them. Different organisms will have different types of luciferase and luciferin.

Although I can’t find a good source as to why this happens, I can come up with a few theories:

1. When you step into water or a wave flows, the water gets enriched in oxygen, thus allowing for the reaction from luciferyladenylate to light.

2. When stepping into the water, the micro-organisms use bioluminescence as a stress reaction or warning signal.

I found a few tips which might help you find what you are looking for:

https://tasmaniangeographic.com/the-definitive-guide-how-to-find-and-photograph-sea-sparkle-bioluminescence/