It’s time for New Yorkers to get excited about the sunset.
That’s because Manhattanhenge is above us. It can produce, when the weather cooperates, four of the most dramatic sunsets of the year in New York City.
This name has a New Yorker style for Stonehenge, an ancient stone structure in the English countryside suitable for sunset and sunrise in summer and winter. That premodern monument was purposefully built for religious and spiritual reasons. By contrast, New York City’s grid wasn’t designed to take into account sunsets, but it did work in a similar way. For four days each May and July, it can bring people together to admire our particular geographical position in the universe as the sun sets on the horizon, disappearing completely along the the city’s vast east-west corridor.
An event like Manhattanhenge can shut down an entire area, beckoning people to celebrate a normal, everyday sunset.
As if New York couldn’t get any more magical, the sunset at Manhattanhenge illuminates the streets with the glow of mandarin pink and bubble gum, transforming the bustling streets into a place to stop and say up, “wow”.
“It’s very popular because it’s a beautiful sunset,” said Jackie Faherty, senior scientist and astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History. “The sun kissed the grid of one of the greatest, if not the greatest cities in the world, and touched the entire corridor of the concrete jungle with these wonderful shades of gold. That is a beautiful thing. ”
Manhattanhenge is when?
You’ll have four chances to see it – twice in the spring and twice in the summer, at the end of the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, on June 21.
This long Memorial Day weekend, Manhattanhenge happens twice:
Sunday, May 29, half sun at 8:13 p.m. Eastern time.
Monday, May 30, full sun at 8:12 pm
Then, in July, you’ll have two more chances to catch a net-perfect sunset:
Monday, July 11, full sun at 8:20 pm
Tuesday, July 12, half sun at 8:21 pm
Why did Manhattanhenge happen?
We were able to witness this celestial event because of the combination of the approaching summer solstice, the city’s grid design, and the natural shape of the island of Manhattan during the last ice age.
About 18,000 years ago, the giant ice sheet atop North America began to melt, creating the island of Manhattan and the modern landscape on which the city is built.
“We think Manhattan Island runs north-south. But it doesn’t really run north-south; it runs northeast to southwest,” said Carol Krinksy, an American architectural historian at New York University.
This orientation combined with the street design, she said, allows the sun to set in the west on this show.
Dr Krinsky added: “The grid was designed for Manhattan before there was a full-fledged New York City. The Commissioner’s Plan of 1811 put 90-degree blocks into motion for the city’s official design. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is primarily the case with the real estate market: Most homebuyers don’t want to buy plots with odd angles.
So, on 14th Street and below 155th Street, the city is divided into a grid. As the Earth tilts toward and then away from the sun during the summer solstice, the result is our beloved Manhattanhenge. It also shows how man-built structures interact with the natural world.
“Things like this have a profound connection not only with the actual architecture of the universe around us, but also with our interactions with it,” said Caleb Scharf, an astronomer at Columbia University, said. “The city is an extension of us.”
Dr. Scharf adds that like Stonehenge, Manhattanhenge helps us find patterns in our surroundings and make sense of them.
“At some point someone will have the question, ‘Why did that happen?’, he said. “’Wait a minute, oh, the sun is not always in the same place on the horizon. Why so?’ This can often lead to ‘Aha!’ those moments where we suddenly have a need to actually explain what we’re seeing, instead of just saying, ‘Oh, that’s great. “
Where is the best place to see?
Luckily, anywhere in the grid above 14th Street can give you a glimpse.
You also need to have a clear view of New Jersey, and Dr. Faherty adds, “You really have to be in the middle of the street to have the full effect, which is a bit dangerous.”
Ideally, choose a street with wide avenues and medians that you can safely stand and watch. If there is a large hill, your view will be blocked.
Although most people go to 42nd Street, Dr. Faherty recommends taking 72nd Street instead. But if you want to blend in with the crowds farther downtown, Pershing Square is the ideal location. most, as well as the area above Grand Central Station in the taxi line. While the New York Police Department tries to shut down viewing there every year, photographers focus on the location and it can be quite chaotic.
Manhattanhenge is also visible outside of Manhattan. In Brooklyn or Queens, Dr. Faherty says there are plenty of places where you can look straight from the city to New Jersey. For the best off-island experience, she recommends Gantry State Park in Queens.