Twice a year, New Yorkers are dazzled by sunsets lining up perfectly with New York City’s Manhattan grid, a phenomenon known as Manhattanhenge. That it is a man-made but unintended phenomenon makes Manhattanhenge a semi-naturally occurring wonder.
The name Manhattanhenge was popularized by Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, referencing the famous monument’s construction lining up with the Vernal Equinox and Autumnal Equinox. Other cities dub days in which the sun aligns with its grid system as their particular “henge,” but Manhattan is uniquely positioned to have one of — if not the — most spectacular example since one can get a clear view to the horizon on streets that run east to west. The best views can be found on 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd, and 57th. Views are best as far east as possible, while still being able to see New Jersey, as recommend Dr. Tyson.
Since Manhattan is not laid out in a perfect east-west configuration, Manhattanhenge occurs on seemingly random dates in the late May and again in mid-July. This is due to the city’s designers pitching the city’s grid 30 degrees east of due north.
Manhattanhenge is also a unique time for Manhattanites to ruminate on the universe outside the big apple. The convergence of nature, astronomy and science all in the dirty urban bubble of New York City is truly a rare experience, not to be missed. This weekend, the first occurrences of Manhattanhenge will be at 8:12 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Friday will see a half sun, while Saturday will represent a full sun Manhattanhenge. The phenomenon will not repeat until July 12 and 13, when you have plenty of time to make your reservations for a wonderful photo session on Manhattan streets!