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Manhattanhenge

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Manhattanhenge

In one of the most cosmopolitan, high-tech, future-driven cities in the world, there’s something satisfying about people flocking to the streets of Manhattan to enact a ritual sun celebration with roots in Neolithic times. Once a year, on or about July 12th, the setting sun aligns on the east-west axis of the city, providing a fleeting and magical vision of Manhattan.

Unlike its more famous cousin, Stonehenge, whose Heel Stone aligns on the precise date of the Northern Summer Solstice on June 20 or 21st, Manhattan’s grid is rotated 30 degrees east from true north, creating an alignment that occurs about three weeks later.

To confuse things, there are actually two Manhattanhenge events: the half-set and the full-set.

Half Sun on the Grid
Thursday, July 12th (8:20pm)

Full Sun on the Grid
Monday, July 11th (8:20pm)

In 2001 New York-based Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson coined the term Manhattanhenge in a blog post for the American Museum of Natural History. He wrote:

For Manhattan, a place where evening matters more than morning, that special day comes twice a year, when the setting Sun aligns precisely with the Manhattan street grid, creating a radiant glow of light across Manhattan’s brick and steel canyons, simultaneously illuminating both the north and south sides of every cross street of the borough’s grid. A rare and beautiful sight. These two days happen to correspond with Memorial Day and Baseball’s All Star break. Future anthropologists might conclude that, via the Sun, the people who called themselves Americans worshiped War and Baseball.

Best Viewing Points

  • Position yourself as east as possible and ensure that you can see clearly across the avenues to New Jersey
  • Not all east-west streets provide views; clear cross streets include: 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd, 57th
  • 34th Street has the Empire State Building and 42nd Street the Chrysler Building, so both of these add a boost to the landscape

Manhattanhenge Lecture: The Hayden Planetarium – July 12th, 7:00pm
If you’re willing to forgo the half-set on July 12th, astrophysicist Jackie Faherty will be lecturing on the phenomenon at the Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Natural History at 7:00pm.

 

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