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Using Giant Mirrors to Light up Dark Valleys

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The villages of Rjukan, Norway, and Viganella, Italy, are both situated in deep valleys where mountains block the sun's rays for up to six months every year. To illuminate those darker winter months, the two towns have built gigantic mirrors that track the sun and reflect daylight downwards. Viganella completed its huge computer-controlled mirror in 2006, and Rjukan followed suit just this month, mounting a mirror that will reflect a 600 square meter (6,500 square foot) beam of sunshine into the town square below. [9 photos]

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In the town of Rjukan, Norway, people gather in front of the town hall, where sunlight is reflected by giant mirrors (top) erected on the mountainside, on October 18, 2013. Rjukan, a small industrial town 150 km west of Oslo, is situated in the bottom of a valley between steep mountains in Telemark County, and is cut off from direct sunlight for five to six months a year. Now, three giant mirrors mounted on a nearby mountainside will reflect winter sunlight into the valley. (Reuters/Tore Meek/NTB Scanpix)
In the town of Rjukan, Norway, people gather in front of the town hall, where sunlight is reflected by giant mirrors (top) erected on the mountainside, on October 18, 2013. Rjukan, a small industrial town 150 km west of Oslo, is situated in the bottom of a valley between steep mountains in Telemark County, and is cut off from direct sunlight for five to six months a year. Now, three giant mirrors mounted on a nearby mountainside will reflect winter sunlight into the valley. (Reuters/Tore Meek/NTB Scanpix)
Giant mirrors erected on a mountainside reflect sunlight into the Norwegian town of Rjukan in the valley below, on October 18, 2013. Combined the mirror surfaces are about 51 square meters (549 square feet). (Reuters/Tore Meek/NTB Scanpix) #
Heliostats, computer-driven motors, control the position of Rjukan's giant mirrors, following the Sun's path to reflect sunlight into the valley below, on October 18, 2013. (Reuters/Tore Meek/NTB Scanpix) #
People gather in front of Rjukan's town hall, in sunlight reflected by giant mirrors erected on a mountainside some 450 meters (1,475 ft) above the small town, on October 18, 2013. Rjukan, located in the bottom of a valley between steep mountains in Telemark County, is normally cut off from direct sunlight for five to six months a year. Now, the three mirrors will bring winter sunlight into the valley. (Reuters/Tore Meek/NTB Scanpix) #
In Italy, in the steep Antrona Valley, the small town of Viganella sits under a banner reading: "Viganella vi da il benvenuto" (Viganella welcomes you), on December 17, 2006. On that day, Viganella celebrated its "day of the light", as it officially inaugurated a giant mirror positioned on a nearby peak to reflect sunlight onto the town's square. The 197 inhabitants of Viganella used to suffer from a complete lack of direct sun from November to February, but the eight-by-six meter sheet of steel, remotely controlled by a computer will now reflect the sunrays to the town's square during the winter. (AP Photo/Alberto Pellaschiar) #
Workers install a mirror placed on a nearby peak to reflect sunlight onto Viganella's main square, on January 24, 2007. (Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images) #
Pierfranco Midali, the mayor of the small town of Viganella, in Italy's Antrona Valley, claps his hands as the giant mirror positioned on the hill behind starts reflecting the sun, on December 17, 2006. (AP Photo/Alberto Pellaschiar) #
A mirror, an eight-by-five meter (26x16 ft) sheet of steel, is placed on a peak overlooking Viganella, Italy, to reflect sunlight onto Viganella's main square, on January 24, 2007. (Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images) #
Locals and visitors enjoy the rays of sunlight brought by a 40 square meter tailor-made sheet of steel on the peak of the 1,100 meter high Mount Scagiola above the tiny village of Viganella in the Italian Alps, on December 16, 2006. (Reuters/Remy Steinegger) #

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