Manhattanhenge Is Coming: What It Is And How To See It

Manhattanhenge Is Coming: What It Is And How To See It

The Met Gala? That’s old news. The most Instagrammable event in Manhattan during May is something anyone can get a ticket to if they happen to be in the city, thanks to an unexpected partnership between the Sun and the street grid known as Manhattanhenge.

What is Manhattanhenge?

Yes, Manhattanhenge sounds like a made-up word and yes, that’s because it is – but the phenomenon itself is definitely real. 

It’s a bi-annual event when the sunset lines up with the Manhattan street grid, meaning anyone who happens to be on any street heading east and west – at least those with a clear view down towards New Jersey across the Hudson River – is met with an esthetically pleasing sunset.

Why does it happen?

If that seems reminiscent of what goes on at Stonehenge, you’re thinking along the right lines.

The term “Manhattanhenge” was coined by famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. He named it so because the phenomenon reminded him of the prehistoric monument, where the stones are aligned towards the rising Sun on the summer solstice and the setting Sun on the winter solstice.

Whilst there’s some debate over whether Stonehenge was designed like that with some sort of purpose, Manhattanhenge is just a coincidence – even though it would make a great conspiracy theory if it weren’t. The island of Manhattan is tilted roughly 30 degrees east of true north and when authorities were making designs for the street grid, it was tilted in the same way to line up with this.

“But doesn’t the Sun set in the west?”, we hear you ask. That’s actually a generalization; the Sun only sets due west twice a year, on the spring and fall equinoxes. The rest of the time, it sets somewhere north or south of due west on the horizon. Since the street grid is at an angle and not lined up from true north to south, that’s why Manhattanhenge happens around late May and mid-July, and not on the equinoxes. 

How can I see it this year?

There are four options for viewing Manhattanhenge this year depending on what you want to see – and if you miss out on those this month, there’s more in July.

If you want to view just the half Sun on the grid, that’s happening on May 28 at 8:13 pm ET and July 13 at 8:21 pm ET. For the Manhattanhenge effect in its full glory, head to the island on May 29 at 8:12 pm ET or July 12 at 8:20 pm ET.

As for the best place to see it, any east/west street with a view to New Jersey will do, but Tyson recommends some of the most spectacular views to be on 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd, and 57th Street.

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