A light emission phenomenon observed during dynamic fracture of a bulk metallic glass, Zr41.2Ti13.8Cu12.5Ni10Be22.5 (at. %), has been investigated using Charpy V-notch impact specimens. Unlike more conventional crystalline metals, these Zr-based amorphous alloys emit intense flashes of visible light when ruptured. The mechanisms for this surprising behavior are unknown and the phenomenon remains uncharacterized. Here we report spectroscopic measurements of the light emitted from specimens fractured in both room air and nitrogen gas. Spectra acquired from specimens ruptured in air exhibited a single broad peak, which could be fit to a blackbody temperature of ∼3175 K. Emission from specimens fractured in nitrogen, however, was at least four orders of magnitude less intense. The spectrum was shifted to the red with an effective blackbody temperature of ∼1400 K. Fracture surfaces of specimens ruptured in both air and nitrogen exhibited local melting, providing further evidence of intense heating during fracture. Based on these observations we argue that the intense light emission in air is associated with pyrolysis of fresh material exposed during rupture. © 1999 American Institute of Physics.