Manhattanhenge in 2008. (Photo : Wikimedia Commons)
It may not be as archaic. Or as mysterious. Or even the same thing as Stonehenge. But for two days in July, New Yorkers will be treated to something just as beautiful: 'Manhattanhenge.'
This rare occurrence happens only twice a year when the setting sun aligns perfectly with the island of Manhattan's street grid, glowing on both the north and south sides of every cross street.
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The first Manhattanhenge of 2012 fell on May 29, with the second one slated for July 12. On these days, as the sun sets and lights up Manhattan in a way that not even the bright lights of the city can, half of the sun will be above the horizon, and half of it below.
Here is where and when the Hayden Planetarium recommends viewing Manhattanhenge on July 12.
- Thursday, July 12 at 8:25 P.M. EDT.
- The streets with the clearest views are 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd, 57th streets.
The day after the first one, May 30, and the day before the second one, July 11, will also offer an incredible view - only these times the entire blazing ball of fire called our sun will be visible, instead of just half of it peeking over the horizon.
Manhattanhenge is a unique urban phenomenon that cannot be experienced in any other city in our world (and possibly our universe, according to astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson). For it to occur, the city needs to have a grid system that aligns with the setting sun, and a clear view to the horizon like New York has over the Hudson River to New Jersey.
Common sense and pop culture has always said that the sun rises due east and sets due west. In reality, however, this only happens twice a year on the first day of spring and the first day of autumn. Instead, the point of sunset actually slowly creeps northward until the first day of summer, and then southward until the first day of winter.
Fun fact: The two Manhattanhenge dates this year coincide with Memorial Day and the Baseball All-Star game. Neil deGrasse Tyson finds this intriguing.
"Future anthropologists might conclude that, via the Sun, the people who called themselves Americans worshiped War and Baseball."