Manhattanhenge

Manhattanhenge 2015

Next week on Friday May 29th, 2015, the sun will transit across Manhattan island and perfectly set in between the cross-streets yielding the spectacle of “Manhattanhenge.” You’ll be able to see the full solar disk slightly above the horizon and in between the profiles of the buildings when looking down the centerline of a cross-street towards New Jersey.

What is Manhattanhenge

Sometimes referred to as the “Manhattan Solstice,” Manhattanhenge occurs over two days twice a year evenly space around the summer solstice. The event occurs when the setting sun is aligned with the east–west streets of the main street grid of Manhattan, New York City.

Why is it Called Manhattanhedge?

Sun Aligning with Heelstone on Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

Sun Aligning with Heelstone on Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History, native New Yorker, general superstar and hero of science geeks everywhere popularized the term Manhattanhenge. Manhattanhenge is a portmanteau (blending a combination of parts of two or more words or their sounds and their meanings into a single new word. Think “alcoholic” + “work” = “workaholic”) of Manhattan and  Stonehenge, the prehistoric monument (now world-famous tourist destination) located in Wiltshire, England. Stonehenge was constructed so that at the time of the summer solstice, the rising sun seen from the center of the monument would align with the outer “Heel Stone”.

Manhattanhenge Explained

Way back in 1811, before Manhattan even had a grid, city planners were busy designing the optimal layout for great City of New York. As Manhattan island is rectangular in shape, it was decided that the main avenues will run parallel to the north-south sides of the city, while cross-streets will bisect the city east to west. Manhattan island itself does not face due north, rather 29° clockwise and as such the cross streets are also rotated by 29° so that the streets intersect at right angles.

If Manhattan’s grid were perfectly aligned with the tilt of the Earth at 23.5°, then Manhattanhenge would occur only once, exactly on the date of the summer solstice. Urban planning buffs, can read all about it in the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811.

It’s true that many cities crossed by a rectangular grid could enjoy days where the setting Sun aligns with the city’s streets. However, most cities around the world are less than ideal for this purpose. In addition to a grid layout, there needs to be a clear view to the horizon, like the island of Manhattan has across the Hudson River towards New Jersey. Points of reference to the sun, much like the columns at Stonehenge, are also necessary. Manhattan’s packed-in skyscrapers create a vertical channel to cinematically frame the setting Sun, affording sun-gazers a special photographic vista.

When is Manhattanhenge 2015

Manhattanhenge 2015 will occur twice this year around the summer solstice. The first Manhattanhenge will happen on Thursday May 28th, 2015 and Friday May 29th, 2015. The second coming of the Manhattanhenge will occur on Sunday July 12, 2015 and Monday July 13, 2015.

Be sure to arrive at least 30 minutes before the times below in order to see the entire event and take the best pictures!

Date Time Type
Friday May 29, 2015 8:12pm Half Sun
Saturday May 30, 2015 8:12pm Full Sun
Sunday July 12, 2015 8:20pm Full Sun
Monday July 13, 2015 8:21pm Half Sun

Where Are the Best Places to See Manhattanhenge?

Manhattanhenge

For maximum photographic glory, you’ll want to position yourself as far east in Manhattan as possible while ensuring that you don’t loose sight of New Jersey while looking west. The best and widest cross streets include 14th, 23rd, 34th. 42nd, 57th, and will render the most amazing Manhattanhenge pictures for your Instagram followers to ogle at and shower you with likes. Impressive landmark buildings like the Empire State building on 34th St. and the Chrysler building on 42nd St. will yield particularly striking images.