Residents of Rjukan can now enjoy a larger amount of sunlight thanks to a giant mirror that reflects the sunbeams into the civic square in the center of the municipality.
There's no shortage of things to enjoy about winter once it finally arrives. The fraction of the planet can enjoy all the amenities of snow that provides the requisite substance for everything from skiing to snowball fights. And you can't go wrong with how festive the Yuletide season becomes when the flaky white stuff starts to cover the landscape.
But what's a total downer is that for more people living in countries where the rim of the Arctic Circle cuts through part of the land, there isn't much in terms of sunlight to enjoy. It's particularly brutal in Norway, where the amount of sunlight can be as little as six hours a day, making the locals prone to seasonal affective disorder, a main source of depression this time of year.
But thanks to the ingenuity of the residents of Rjukan, locals have been able to catch a few more rays the past five years. It's all because of the construction of the Solspeil, better known as a sun mirror, that reflects the sunbeams from the top of a mountain outside the town and directs all that light right into the civic square in the center of the municipality. According to artist and resident Martin Andersen, who designed the mirror, the structure's able to bounce no less than 80 percent of the solar energy beaming from the sky right into the town core.
To get more hours of sunlight from its source some 93 million miles away from Earth, Anderson made sure that the mirror was installed at an elevation point high enough to bounce that light while the setting sun was still on the horizon. That meant installing the contraption at a location of 1,500 feet above the town. the Solspiel has three mirrors, each providing nearly 170 feet of shiny surface and powered by a computer-driven heliostat to follow the sun's direction so that its rays are always in line with the installation.
Martin got the idea for the mirror a decade earlier, based on a similar concept dreamed up by another resident, Sam Eyde, back in 1913. While it took roughly a century to make the sun mirror a reality, chances are the folks in Rjukan would agree that the innovation was worth the wait.