Reflected Sunlight for Rattenberg

A mirror in the sky: Courtesy gualtiero

Here in Minnesota the days are finally getting longer and we’re getting more daylight each day. Residents in the Austrian town of Rattenberg are also grateful for the return of spring’s longer days. You see, Rattenberg gets no sunlight at all from late fall to mid-winter. The town was founded some 700 years ago and was uniquely situated between the Inn River and the Rat Mountains for protection from bandits. However, the same mountains that protected the town from bandits also leave it in shadows from November to mid-February as the sun never rises far enough on the horizon to shine directly onto it.

People in Minnesota sometimes get a little discomforted during the shorter days, some even suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a mood disorder associated with depression episodes related to seasonal variations of light. I can’t imagine what it would like to live in a shadow for over three months of the year – knowing that there is sun, but that it is blocked by a nearby mountain. Residents of Rattenberg have been leaving the town for sunnier locations and the town’s population is declining.

To help its residents get some light during the winter the town is working with Bartenbach Light Laboratory to install 15 heliostats (giant mirrors that track the movement of the sun) about a quarter of a mile outside the town – and beyond the reach of the mountain’s shadow. The heliostats will reflect the sunlight to a giant mirror covered tower in the city, which in turn will reflect the light to small mirrors on buildings throughout the town, which then transfers the light to the streets. The heliostats and mirrors will be installed this August at a cost of around $2 million. The hope is that tourists, who frequent the town in the summer to purchase blown glass artwork the town is famous for, will now visit year-round, and that residents will no longer look to leave for sunnier locations to live.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

What about people who live near the north pole and have dark days in winter and sunshine all day and night in summer?\r\n\r\nWhy does that happen?

posted on Sat, 03/25/2006 - 10:12am
ARTiFactor's picture
ARTiFactor says:

The top of the world (North Pole) is tipped away from the Sun in the winter and is always in the shade. When the earth circles around to the other side of the sun (summer) it is tipped toward the Sun all day so the sun is always in the sky.

posted on Sat, 03/25/2006 - 2:37pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

When do you think the sun will die?

posted on Sun, 03/26/2006 - 4:20pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Not in your lifetime; but basically you've got about another 5Billion years until it starts to get bigger and en-gulf, both Mercury and Venus and possibly Earth.
But before all that happens, the heat from the sun to roast us - so there is no need to be scared, because hopefully we, as humans, will be off this planet or we will be all dead long before this happens.

posted on Wed, 05/10/2006 - 4:56pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

It must be tough to live in shadows for months. I never realized how fortunate we are to have winters like this! Living in Rattenburg would be a true test of endurance. Personally, I think everyone should understand why population drops. That should be studied by scientists, both in life and phisical causes. I hate cold shadows, and something shall be done to bring people back to Rattenburg.-Anonymous

posted on Sun, 03/26/2006 - 6:42pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I love spring it's so much better then winter. winter is so boring and long i wouldn't care if wedidn't have christmas as long as there was no winter, well i would care a little bit.

posted on Fri, 03/31/2006 - 8:50pm

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