Two times a year, people in Manhattan gather in several spots to get a perfect shot of the sun aligning with the city’s carefully laid out streets.
The phenomenon known as “Manhattanhenge” is spectacular to watch and it’s happening this Memorial Day.
During the event, the sun lines up perfectly with the borough’s street grid. As it sets, every street that runs east to west will be illuminated in a warm glow as the sunlight kisses the island.
The two-day event starts at 8:12 p.m. ET on Sunday and Monday. An encore event will take place July 11 and 12.
The phenomenon got its name from famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium.
The name alludes to Stonehenge, the 5,000-year-old rock formation in England that aligns with the rising sun during the summer solstice — an event that heralds the beginning of the summer season for the Northern Hemisphere.
“What will future civilizations think of Manhattan Island when they dig it up and find a carefully laid out network of streets and avenues?” Tyson writes in a post featured on the American Museum of Natural History’s website. “These two days happen to correspond with Memorial Day and Baseball’s All Star break. Future anthropologists might conclude that, via the Sun, the people who called themselves Americans worshiped War and Baseball.”
Whether it was planned or merely a coincidence, this biannual event is sure to draw crowds of tourists and New Yorkers.
“True, some municipalities have streets named for the Sun, like Sunrise Highway on Long Island and the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. But these roads are not perfectly straight. And the few times a year when the Sun aligns with one of their stretches of road, all you get is stalled traffic solar glare temporarily blinds drivers,” Tyson adds.
“So Manhattanhenge may just be a unique urban phenomenon in the world, if not the universe.”
For best viewing results, Tyson advises people to position themselves as far east in Manhattan as possible to get the full viewing effect. Some of best cross streets for viewing include 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd, 57th, as well as the streets next to them.
This phenomenon isn’t necessarily unique just to New York City. “Cityhenges,” metropolises that lie on east-west grids, also experience this henge-effect. In fact, there’s a Bostonhenge, Chicagohenge and Montrealhenge — just to name a few.