Manhattan Solstice or Manhattanhenge

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Sun May 28 22:03:14 UTC 2006

I don't know how many of you live in Manhattan or if Grant Barrett is  
interested in this term. FWIW, it's at 6:10 p.m. today.
Manhattan Solstice (Manhattanhenge or Sensational Sunset)
The “Manhattan Solstice” is when the sun is in perfect alignment with  
Manhattan’s “grid” street pattern. You can stand on any street that runs  
perfectly east-west and see a magnificent  sunset!
F.  Y. I.
Stonehenge in the City
Q. I’ve heard  about a “Manhattan solstice,” when the sun supposedly lines 
up along the  streets. Is it for real? When does it happen? 
A. Here’s the lowdown on the sundown, courtesy of Neil deGrasse Tyson,  
director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History.  Next 
Sunday and on July 13, the sun will fully illuminate every Manhattan cross  
street (not the curved or angled ones) on the street grid during the last 15  
minutes of daylight, and it will set on each street’s center line. The sight is 
This is a special photo opportunity, with parts of Manhattan’s canyons  
getting illumination they normally don’t get. 
If the Manhattan street grid ran north-south and east-west, the alignment  
days would be the spring and fall equinoxes, the two days when the sun rises due 
 east and sets due west. But the Manhattan grid is angled 30 degrees east 
from  geographic north, shifting the days.  
There are two corresponding mornings of sunrise right on the center lines of  
the Manhattan grid, Dr. Tyson wrote in an e-mail message: Dec. 5, 2006, and 
Jan.  8,  2007.
Saturday,  May 27, 2006
The Perfect Sunset  
NPR’s calling it the “Sensational Sunset.” I’m calling it “Sunday Study  
Break” (even though for us west coasters, it just means watching it on TV).  
Reason #1,049,293 why I’m dying to be in NYC right now? 
Manhattan Solstice. And it purports to be one of the most magnificent,  
scintillating, eye-catching displays of one of my favorite things in the world:  
sunshine! Sound cheesy? I know. But come on. This is almost as good as if a  
giant cheese-machine were soon to be descending on earth. Can you imagine? The  
CheeseMachine. OMG. My limited but potent creative juices are flowing, watch 
out  world. 
On May 28, at 8:10 PM (EST), the Sun’s rays will fall exactly parallel to the 
 Manhattan skyline. Provided you are somewhere that has a clear, unobstructed 
 view of the New Jersey horizon, you’ll be able to see the sun cross every  
cross-street in Manhattan. How beautiful! Clearly these words do the coming  
experience it no justice. I apologize. Studying for the bar is soaking up every  
ounce of creativity left in my brain-which is close to naught-after  having 
endured law school. So please. Check it out if you can. And if you can’t  make 
Sunday, just stop for a minute on any other day and . . . while smelling  the 
roses . . . appreciate that this tiny 13-mile long city is operating to  
artistically interpret light from a fireball that is more than 93 million miles  
May  28, 2004
Manhattanhenge Today 
Besides it being the start of the summer, today is very special: The sun will 
 set in the centerline of every NYC street (photobloggers, get ready!). 
American  Museum of Natural History astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson desrcribes 
this  phenomenon beautifully in the Natural History Magazine, explaining that 
like  Stonehenge where the sun sets in alignment with stones during the summer  
solstice, Manhattan has two “special” days where the sun sets between 
buildings  – May 28 and July 12:  
On these days, the Sun fully illuminates every single cross street during  
the last fifteen minutes of daylight and sets exactly on the street’s  
centerline. Upon studying American culture and what is important to it, future  
anthropologists might take the Manhattan alignments to be cosmic signs of  Memorial 
Day and, of course, baseball’s All-Star break.  
If the Manhattan grid matched the geographic north-south line, then our  
special days would be the equinoxes, the two days on the calendar when the Sun  
rises due east and sets due west. But Manhattan is rotated 30 degrees east from  
geographic north, shifting the special days elsewhere in the calendar. 
* * *

The American Dialect Society -

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