NEW YORK (AP) — Didn’t make it to Stonehenge for the solstice? There’s still time to catch Manhattanhenge, when the setting sun aligns with the grid of Manhattan’s streets and bathes the urban canyons in a rosy glow.
Manhattanhenge’s last two sunsets of 2022 are Monday and Tuesday. Some information on the phenomenon:
WHERE DOES THE NAME MANHATTANHENGE COME FROM?
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson coined the term in a 1997 article in Natural History magazine. Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, said he was inspired by a visit to Stonehenge as a teenager.
The future host of TV shows like PBS “Nova ScienceNow” was part of an expedition led by Gerald Hawkins, the scientist who first hypothesized that the mysterious megaliths of Stonehenge were an ancient astronomical observatory.
It struck Tyson, a New York native, that the setting sun framed by Manhattan’s skyscrapers could be compared to the rays of the sun hitting the center of the Stonehenge circle at the solstice.
Unlike the Neolithic builders of Stonehenge, the planners who laid out Manhattan did not intend to channel the sun. It just worked like that.
WHEN IS MANHATTANHENGE?
Manhattanhenge does not take place on the summer solstice itself, which was June 21 this year. Instead, it happens about three weeks before the solstice and again about three weeks after. This is when the sun lines up perfectly with the east-west streets of the Manhattan grid.
For 2022, the Manhattanhenge peak occurred at 8:12 p.m. on May 30 and again occurs at 8:20 p.m. on Monday. That’s when the full sun seems to hover between the buildings just before sinking into the Hudson River.
On the days before and after – May 29 and July 12 of this year – the upper half of the sun disk is above the horizon and the upper half is below at the precise moment of alignment.
WHERE CAN YOU SEE MANHATTANHENGE?
Traditional viewpoints are found along the city’s wide east-west thoroughfares: 14th Street, 23rd Street, 34th Street, 42nd Street and 57th Street. The further east you go, the more spectacular the view as the sun’s rays hit the facades of the buildings on either side. It is also possible to see Manhattanhenge across the East River in the Long Island City section of Queens.
IS MANHATTANHENGE AN ORGANIZED EVENT?
Manhattanhenge viewing parties are not unheard of. The beverage company San Pellegrino organized a “exclusive Manhattanhenge celebration” on a bridge spanning East 42nd Street in 2018.
But Manhattanhenge is mostly a do-it-yourself affair. People gather in the east-west streets about half an hour before sunset and take photo after photo as dusk approaches. It’s if the weather is nice. There is no Manhattanhenge visible on rainy or cloudy days.
DO OTHER CITIES HAVE ‘HENGES’?
Similar effects occur in other cities with uniform street grids. Chicagohenge and Baltimorehenge occur when the setting sun aligns with those cities’ grid systems in March and September, around the spring and fall equinoxes. Torontohenge occurs around February 16 and October 25.
But Manhattanhenge is particularly striking because of the height of the buildings and the clear path to the Hudson.