NEW YORK (AP) — Didn’t make it to Stonehenge for the solstice? There’s still time to see Manhattanhenge, when the setting sun aligns with the Manhattan street grid and bathes the urban canyons in a rosy glow.
The last two Manhattanhenge sunsets of 2022 are Monday and Tuesday. Some background on the phenomenon:
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 that 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 New York native, that the setting sun framed by Manhattan’s skyscrapers could be compared to the sun’s rays striking the center of the Stonehenge circle at solstice.
Unlike the Neolithic builders of Stonehenge, the planners who designed Manhattan did not intend to channel the sun. It only worked that way.
Manhattanhenge does not take place on the summer solstice, which was June 21 this year. Instead, it occurs about three weeks before the solstice and again about three weeks after. That’s when the sun lines up perfectly with the east-west streets of the Manhattan grid.
For 2022, the peak of Manhattanhenge occurred at 8:12 p.m. on May 30 and occurs again at 8:20 p.m. on Monday. That’s when the full sun seems to float between the buildings just before sinking into the Hudson River.
On the days before and after, on May 29 and July 12 this year, the top half of the sun’s disk is above the horizon and the top half is below at the precise moment of alignment.
WHERE CAN YOU SEE MANHATTANHENGE?
Traditional lookout points are along the city’s wide east-west thoroughfares: 14th Street, 23rd Street, 34th Street, 42nd Street, and 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’s also possible to see Manhattanhenge across the East River in the Long Island City section of Queens.
IS MANHATTANHENGE AN ORGANIZED EVENT?
Manhattanhenge viewing parties are not unheard of. The San Pellegrino beverage company hosted a “signature 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, snapping photo after photo as sunset approaches. That is if the weather is good. There is no visible Manhattanhenge 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 aligns 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 for the height of the buildings and the unobstructed path to the Hudson.
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