NEW YORK – Manhattanhenge is when the sun sets in perfect alignment with the East and West numbered streets of Manhattan to create movie-worthy photo opportunities.
Take a look at some background on the phenomenon, as well as when and where you can see it:
Where does the name Manhattanhenge come from?
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson coined the term in a 1997 article in the journal Natural History. Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, has said he was inspired by a visit to Stonehenge as a teenager.
The future host of TV shows like PBS’s “Nova ScienceNow” was part of an expedition led by Gerald Hawkins, the scientist who first theorized that the mysterious Stonehenge megaliths were an ancient astronomical observatory.
It occurred to Tyson, a native of New York, that the setting sun framed by the skyscrapers of Manhattan could be compared to the sun’s rays striking the center of the Stonehenge circle on the solstice.
Unlike the Neolithic builders of Stonehenge, the planners who designed Manhattan did not intend to channel the sun. It only worked that way.
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When is Manhattanhenge?
Manhattanhenge does not take place on the same summer solstice. Instead, it occurs about three weeks before the solstice and again about three weeks after. That’s when the sun aligns perfectly with the east-west streets of the Manhattan grid.
These are the dates for this year:
- The half sun will be visible on the grid on Monday at 20:13
- The full sun will be visible on Tuesday at 8:12 pm.
- The second set of dates falls on July 12 (full Sunday) and July 13 (half sun).
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Where can you see Manhattanhenge?
The traditional observation points are located along the wide streets from east to west of the city:
- 14th street
- 23rd street
- 34th street
- 42nd street
- 57th street.
The further east you go, the more spectacular the view will be as the sun’s rays hit the building facades on either side. It is also possible to see Manhattanhenge across the East River in the Long Island City section of Queens.
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Is Manhattanhenge an organized event?
Manhattanhenge viewing parties are not unheard of. The San Pellegrino beverage company hosted an “exclusive Manhattanhenge celebration” on a bridge spanning East 42nd Street in 2018.
But Manhattanhenge is mostly a DIY affair. People gather on the streets from east to west about half an hour before sunset and take photo after photo as sunset approaches. That’s if the weather is good. There is no Manhattanhenge visible on rainy or cloudy days.
Do other cities have ‘henges’?
Similar effects occur in other cities with uniform street grids. Chicagohenge and Baltimorehenge occur when the setting sun lines up with the grid systems in those cities during March and September, around the spring and fall equinoxes. Torontohenge occurs around February 16 and October 25.
But Manhattanhenge is particularly striking because of the height of the buildings and the unobstructed path to the Hudson.
Associated Press helped contribute to this report.