What is Manhattanhenge and how can you see it?

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Manhattanhenge New York City Sunset
People observing the sunset during Manhattanhenge in New York City.

Much like England’s Stonehenge draws massive crowds of visitors each summer solstice, there are lots of other amazing annual phenomena. One of them is Manhattanhenge.

Sometimes called the Manhattan Solstice, this yearly event sees the sunset align with the downtown east-west street grid of New York City.

This creates an incredible glowing spectacle, a mesmerizing sunset you must not miss. While Stonehenge was likely built to align with the summer solstice, Manhattanhenge’s connection is more of a coincidence. The sun lines up with the city’s grid twice during the year, once towards the end of May and once in July.

Manhattanhenge in New York CityAnother sunrise alignment occurs around the winter solstice in the first weeks of December and January.

Manhattanhenge Lights Up New York Each Year

The term was popularized by celebrity American astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. The planetarium will also hold a special presentation on 12 July to explore this phenomenon.

Manhattanhenge
The sun sets along the streets of New York City

Jacqueline Faherty, astrophysicist and senior scientist in the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History, who calculates the date and time of Manhattanhenge each year, says that “You have to be on the grid of Manhattan to see the event. It is all about the angle. If you go off the grid by even a degree you will be out of alignment.” She also notes that 14th, 23rd, 42nd, 72nd, 79th streets are the best for viewing.

This year, Manhattanhenge will occur on Wednesday, 30 May at 8:12 pm and Thursday, 12 July 8:20 pm. To learn more about the phenomenon and the presentation at the Hayden Planetarium, visit Jacqueline Faherty’s website.

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