How far will some people go to feel the sun on their faces? For one Norwegian town, the answer is $847,000 and a big engineering project.
In Rjukan (population 3,400), the money was spent on three large mirrors, called "heliostats." The mirrors, which were installed on a mountain above the town, are angled to follow the sun and reflect light down to street level.
Located roughly 100 miles (160 kilometers) west of Oslo, Rjukan is tucked in a valley at the foot of Gaustatoppen Mountain. The surrounding mountains shield the town from direct sunlight for five to six months of the year, making for a long, cold winter for residents.
One hundred years ago, locals had suggested putting mirrors on the mountains to beam sunlight down, but that idea didn't come to fruition until 2005, when local resident Martin Andersen, an artist, launched "The Mirror Project."
On October 31, 1913, the town's founder was quoted in a local paper suggesting that a solspeil, or sun mirror, be erected to beam sunlight down from the hills. The sun mirror will be dedicated on October 31, 2013—exactly 100 years later.
Photograph by Terje Bendiksby, Scanpix/EPA
Follow the Sun
The three mirrors, or heliostats, have a surface area of 550 square feet (51 square meters). They are computer controlled, designed to track with the sun, and are powered by renewable energy: solar and wind power.
According to media reports, the mirrors beam sunlight into the town's main square, producing an ellipse of light at least 80 percent as powerful as direct sunlight on the mountain.
Photograph by Tore Meek, Scanpix/EPA
Ray of Light
Residents bask in a reflected sunbeam in front of Rjukan's town hall. Rjukan, a small industrial town in Telemark County, Norway, is named after Rjukanfossen ("The Smoking Waterfall"), a 341-foot (104-meter) waterfall in the Westfjord Valley. The waterfall on the Måne River is a tourist destination and lit with electricity produced from its own flow.