Abstract Carotenoids are well-known physical quenchers of chlorophyll excited states and reactive oxygen species both in vivo and in vitro. They may also be involved in chemical quenching undergoing, e.g. isomerizations or oxidations. We have found that β-carotene (Car) in aerobic acetone is rapidly oxygenated under strong illumination with red light (λexc ≥ 630 nm) in the presence of bacteriopheophytin a. At the same time the photosensitizer undergoes only slight (<10%) photodegradation. By preparative high-performance liquid chromatography as many as seven major products of oxygen attachment to Car have been isolated. Their molecular masses show that Car sequentially accumulates up to six oxygen atoms while its C40-skeleton remains intact.