It happens just four times a year (two full suns, and two half-suns) but you can bet New Yorkers make the most of it…Manhattanhenge, that is. Coined by Neil deGrasse Tyson, the merge of Manhattan and Stone Henge is used described the phenomen when the sun perfectly aligns with the east-west streets of Manhattan. “Manhattanhenge comes about because the Sun’s arc has not yet reached these limits (of the solstice), and is on route to them, as we catch a brief glimpse of the setting Sun along the canyons of our narrow streets,” explained Tyson. Standing far to the east side, the ArchDaily team stood shoulder to shoulder with dozens of anxious observers in Tudor City, an elevated niche that offers a clear shot down 42nd Street and is graced with the beautiful profiles of the Chrysler Building and the Bank of America Tower. Although the cloudy skies of Thursday only allowed a few red rays to run across the sides of the buildings, Wednesday’s crystal clear evening showed the red fireball in all its glory sitting between the grided streets. More about Manhattanhenge after the break.
Contrary to popular belief, Tyson explains that the sun only rises due east and sets due west on the equinoxes – every other day, the sun rises and sets elsewhere on the horizon. ”Had Manhattan’s grid been perfectly aligned with the geographic north-south line, then the days of Manhattanhenge would coincide with the equinoxes. But Manhattan’s street grid is rotated 30 degrees east from geographic north, shifting the days of alignment elsewhere into the calendar,” stated Tyson.
Although all cities organized in a rectilinear fashion will experience a day where the sun aligns with the degree of the rotation of that grid, Manhattan’s day is especially exciting and noteworthy because the city’s view corridor extends across the Hudson River to New Jersey, and the city’s skyscrapers define a “vertical channel to frame the setting Sun.”
But, the best part of Manhattanhenge was removing oneself from the worries of getting a perfect shot, and just absorbing the activity. If you could peel yourself away from the camera lense, it was great fun to witness people running into the streets, dodging taxis and buses, or waiting patiently on the thin yellow line of the road to witness the sun’s alignment, respectively ignoring the police’s blowhorn warnings to clear the streets. In a metropolis that is so fast paced, for just a few moments all eyes were focused so intently on the city’s beautiful 200 year old+ grid, and that, in and of itself, was remarkable.
Did you share in the Manhattanhenge festivities? Let us know in the comments below!