How to watch NYC's Manhattanhenge

Cristina Cross
June 1, 2018

Sunset views in New York City are always gorgeous. During the phenomenon, which occurs just a few times a year, the sun aligns perfectly with skyscrapers that sit on Manhattan's street grid, creating lovely scenes made for picture-taking.

Ever since the superstar astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson drew attention to the striking phenomenon - and coined the term "Manhattanhenge" for it - anyone within hailing distance of an Uber with an iPhone has hurried out to the city's prime cross streets (14th, 34th, 42nd, 57th, and 79th are recommended) on designated afternoons, to photograph the sun shining directly down the canyon walls of the city like a flashlight in a narrow closet. Viewers will able to see the full sun on May 30 and July 12 around 8:20 pm, and half of the sun on May 29 and 13 around 8:10 pm. "We don't know if it was constructed as an astronomical observatory, or a religious monument to note the position of the sun at different times of year". 29 May and 13 July are known as the "half-sun" days.

One day is already over but people in New York City are still able to watch the second day of Manhattanhenge.

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"Beyond the grid you need a clear view to the horizon, as Manhattan has across the Hudson River to New Jersey", he said. Eastern standard time, the next occurrence will be on Wednesday, May 30 at 8:12 p.m. That's a misnomer, since the actual summer solstice - the longest day of the year, when the sun is highest in the sky - is June 21. On both these days, the sun's full disk would be visible.

After the solstice, the sun reverses course and begins to shift back to the north. Those living in Upper Manhattan and Harlem must contend with buildings and structures rising up from The Bronx; those on the Upper East Side and Midtown will be looking toward Queens; and those in the East Village down to Houston Street will be facing Brooklyn edifices. And lastly, the odds of clear and sunny winter-morning weather are considerably less favorable compared with having a clear and sunny summer evening.

Of course, there are other places on Earth where the sun aligns with certain landmarks at specific times of the year. He first discovered Manhattan's perfectly aligned sunset in the mid-1990s. Thousands of people pour out of buildings in the concrete jungle in order to experience this cool event. All these years later, the issue remains a contentious one, and the true nature of Stonehenge may forever be a mystery.

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