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Massive Mirrors Brighten Norway's Winter Darkness

The town is normally cloaked in shadow for 7 months of the year
Oct. 25, 2013

The huge sun mirror ('Solspeilet') set up on the hillside above Rjukan, to reflect sunlight down on the town square, is seen during its officially opening, on Oct. 30, 2013, in Rjukan, Norway, 100 years after the idea was first released. (KRISTER SOERBOE/AFP/Getty Images)

It can't be very fun to live in a town cloaked in shadow for seven months out of the year. In fact, it sounds downright depressing. That's why one town in Norway has decided to outsmart Mother Nature by installing mirrors to reflect sunlight onto their winter-darkened town this year.

The town of Rjukan, Norway, lies in the midst of looming mountains. Because the winter sun hangs low in the sky and is blocked by the hills, the town receives no direct sunlight between September and March each year. According to the Mirror Online, some residents are believed to suffer from seasonal affective disorder. To combat the seasonal woe, the town has used helicopters to hoist enormous mirrors atop the mountains which will reflect sunlight onto the town's main square.

The artist who designed the plans for the mirrors and obtained funding to have them installed described the project to the Mirror as, "a kind of health project to promote the well-being of people living in the shade."

Incredibly, Rjukan is not the first town to bathe its residents in sunlight via mirror. A town in northern Italy, Viganella, has already installed a similar system.

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I am just not sure how a story like this goes from what it is to a political debate? We are talking about a town and it's lack of sun light due to its geographical location and Moutains while people post comments about tea parties and liberals.....? What the hell does that have to do with anything? Are we to blame this towns darkness to Republicans or Democrats? Maybe the Independants? Why does every topic of conversation, story in the news, or whatever suddenly become political today? It makes no sense and has no business there. Politics stay in Washington where you belong. Meanwhile the rest of us will stay calm and carry on.

October 27 2013 at 11:30 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

and god said let there be light
then this guy came along

October 27 2013 at 11:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

With a government here in the US that is determined to push Daylight Saving Time further and further into Spring and Fall, perhaps they can figure out a way to get light to the millions of Americans who must wake up early to go to work and get their children to school in the dark.

October 27 2013 at 10:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Bronze Boy (Superboy) thought of that trick many years ago. He lit up a Mexican town with a giant mirror that was surrounded by mountains.

October 27 2013 at 10:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

And thus, they're likely altering the climate. Probably, creating a warming effect which automobiles and industry will get the blame for.

October 27 2013 at 9:57 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

ae12wrangell writes: To Norwegians, you reside mostly north of the Arctic Circle. How wrong can you be, look at the map and the Arctic Circle!! It is only the north of the country that are in darkness some two months. It is not as bad as it sounds, 24 hour sunlight in two-three months of the summer. This town Rjukan which is mentioned is where a giant power plant was built and obviously people had to live there. The movie Heroes of Telemark was filmed there and the power plant was known to Hitler for making heavy water for the atomic bomb. Thank God he did not get hold of that heavy water. However most of Norway is enjoying sunshine year round. I am Norwegian and live in the US.

October 27 2013 at 9:35 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Having grown up in Scotland, I find this idea interesting. It was so hard for me to get up and go to school/work in the dark during the winter, then leave school/work in the dark to go home again - very depressing. My brother suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a real ailment. Now that I live in the southern US, I can't get enough sun, which I fear will go away for a month or two like it did in Scotland. The down side is that I really miss the long Scottish summer days, where the sun barely sets before rising again.

October 27 2013 at 7:41 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

To Norwegians, you reside mostly north of the Arctic Circle. When I vacationed in Alaska, near Juneau, there was 20 hours of sun, and that was July. Be glad Norway is not at the center of the Arctic Ocean. If it was, there'd be one half year in total darkness; the other half in total sunlight. So don't get angry, accept it. Iceland, Sweden, Poland, Scotland, Northern Island, Finland, Denmark, Alaska, Siberia, Upper Mongolia are able to put up with this. And they have put up with this since the Dawn of Man.
As for your mirors, the earth is constanly moving(not the rotation or revolution). The islands and continents are slowly moving apart from the other. According to USGS, in about 50-75,000 years, Long Island will be a complete seperate entity. Bridges and tunnels will start to come apart. Accept things for what they are.

October 27 2013 at 7:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ae12wrangell's comment

I like my darkness and 24hr light during the summer months, days are already getin longer in april, 23 june we have sun for 24 hrs, I mean you can see it. In sept, days are gettin shorter again, we enjoy the 4 seasons, in Finland.

October 27 2013 at 8:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jurmik's comment

Okay. But let me ask an honest question. When it's completely dark for 6 months, are flight out of airport restricted? I ask that because at the South Pole, they have the same situation. Only during an emergency has a National Guard Cargo plane landed, dropped off the replacement doctor, picked up the doctow who had cancer, and flew out, and within 5 minutes.

October 27 2013 at 10:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

The further the mirror gets the more scatter loss of photons due to micro-level unevenness on the surface of the mirror. Mirrors works best close to targets less than 25 feet or so to minimize scatter loss. See, the photons in sunlight strike the surface dont always bounce to intended target in a geometric sense because photons are so tiny that it see valleys and hills on the surface of the mirror while there is plenty of flat surface. This is why you see fuzzy light on the surface in the town. I would say that that mirror on the top of the mountain only manage to hit around 20% of the photons as intendeed. The rest is scattered all over unseen or dimly noticed around .This is why fiber optic technologies need to be researched to find out how to transport sunlight over long distance without loss. You can polish the mirrors like you do for telescopes but it is too expensive! Fiber optics offers promise. Why fiber optic manufacturers never thought of that , really boggles my mind!

October 27 2013 at 6:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Gumby's comment

They use mirrors in telescopes to look at objects further away than 25 feet.

October 27 2013 at 8:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mike Keefer

The main effect seen in the square is because the Sun is not a point source. It is a circle 1,600,000 km across and 150,000,000 km away. That means the light that hits those mirrors spreads out 1.6 meters for every 150 meters traveled. That is assuming the mirrors are perfectly flat. It looks like that light patch is at most 24 meters across. That puts the ridge line and mirrors about 1 and half kilometers from the town square.

October 28 2013 at 12:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gary R. Gray

it was real stupid for them to build the town in that location in the first place. only white people would do something so dumb.

October 27 2013 at 5:42 PM Report abuse -8 rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to Gary R. Gray's comment
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