Photo Credit: Haldean Brown
For two days, twice a year, the arc of the sun across the sky runs in perfect alignment with the streets of Manhattan. On these days at sunset, the orb of the Sun appears to slip directly in between each of Manhattan’s streets, as if nestling there.
As it sets, the Sun lights up every cross street in the borough from end to end, like water filling in the grooves between paving tiles, and its glow coruscates across hundreds of glass and steel-clad skyscrapers.
This phenomenon is known as “Manhattanhenge.”
It was named and popularized by Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History.
He named the spectacle after Stonehenge, the prehistoric circle of large vertical rocks in the Salisbury Plains of England. It is thought that the rocks were put in place so that on the summer solstice, the Sun would align with them and mark the change of the season.
Had New York been built directly north to south, Manhattanhenge would occur on the equinoxes: the first day of spring and fall. However, the city sits at 30 degrees east of true geographical north, so its dates are slightly skewed.
The first two days of this year’s Manhattanhenge already occurred at the end of May (it was quite cloudy). But the light show will happen again very soon, at the following dates:
Wednesday, July 12, at 8:20 p.m. EDT (Full Sun)
Thursday, July 13, at 8:21 p.m. EDT (Half Sun)
The museum recommends that for best viewing, one should be positioned as far to the east in Manhattan as possible, and ensure that when looking down the avenues to the west, New Jersey is still visible (in order to have a view of the horizon). The clearest cross streets include 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd, 57th, and several streets adjacent to them.
The weather forecast for these days is currently cloudy.