NEW YORK, NY - MAY 29: People watch and photograph the sunset on 14th Street during 'Manhattanhenge' on May 29, 2013 in New York City. This semiannual occurrence happens each Summer when the setting sun aligns east-west with the street grid of the city. (Photo : Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
What makes Manhattanhenge different from other New York City sunsets isn't just in how it creates the perfect landscape for a Central Park stroll. Or how it makes touristy trips to the Empire State Building seem less dull.
Manhattanhenge transcends the city's own beauty.
Astrophysics Neil deGrasse Tyson coined the term after Stonehenge, the prehistoric circle of stones in Wiltshire, England that continuously draws curious visitors. Manhattanhenge, he says, is an homage to Stonehenge and how it annually aligns with the rising sun during the summer solstice.
New Yorkers get to witness the phenomenon twice a year.
"The setting Sun aligns precisely with the Manhattan street grid, creating a radiant glow of light across Manhattan's brick steel canyons, simultaneously illuminating both the north and south sides of every cross street of the borough's grid," de Grasse Tyson writes on a American Museum of Natural History post. He added that the dusk setting is "a rare and beautiful sight."
Because Manhattan's street grid doesn't align along north-south lines, days of alignment are thrown off and shift to days in late May and mid-July. This year, they land on May 29 and May 30. Once the sun's setting turns southward, New York will get two additional days of Manhattanhenge, this year landing on July 12 and 13.
Manhattanhenge didn't gain popularity until 2002 but has grown into a citywide event. Viewers are encourages to go head east without losing sight of New Jersey. DeGrasse Tyson suggests the best angles will be on 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd and 57th streets.
"Unnoticed by many, the sunset point actually creeps day to day along the horizon northward until the first day of summer, then returning southward until the first day of winter," DeGrasse Tyson said. "In spite of what pop-culture tells you, the Sun rises due east and sets due west only twice per year. On the equinoxes: the first day of spring and of autumn."
Half Sun on the grid schedule and peak times
Friday, May 29 8:12 p.m. EST
Monday, July 13 8:21 p.m. EST
Full Sun on the grid schedule and peak times
Saturday, May 30 8:12 p.m. EST
Sunday, July 12 8:20 p.m. EST