Light emitted from high temperature black smokers (350 C) at mid-ocean ridge spreading centers has been documented, but the source of this light and its photochemical and biological consequences have yet to be investigated. Preliminary studies indicate that thermal radiation alone might account for the 'glow' and that a novel photoreceptor in shrimp colonizing black smoker chimneys may detect this 'glow.' A more controversial question is whether there may be sufficient photon flux of appropriate wavelengths to support geothermally-driven photosynthesis (GDP) by microorganisms. Although only a very low level of visible and near infrared light may be emitted from any single hydrothermal vent, several aspects of the light make it of more than enigmatic interest. First, the light is clearly linked to geophysical (and perhaps geochemical) processes; its attributes may serve as powerful index parameters for monitoring change in these processes. Second, while the glow at a vent orifice is a very local phenomenon, more expansive subsurface environments may be illuminated, thereby increasing the spatial scale at which biological consequences of this light might be considered. Third, in contrast to intermittent bioluminescent light sources in the deep sea, the light emitted at vents almost certainly glows or flickers continuously over the life of the individual black smokers (years to decades); collectively, light emitted from black smokers along the ocean's spreading centers superimposed on background Cerenkov radiation negates the concept of the deep sea as an environment devoid of abiotic light. Finally, the history of hydrothermal activity predates the origin of life; light in the deep sea has been a continuous phenomenon on a geological time scale and may have served either as a seed or refugium for the evolution of biological photochemical reactions or adaptations.