article-imageManhattanhenge (all photographs by the author)

The grid system of Manhattan has resulted in a rare astronomical occurrence known as Manhattanhenge. This event, where the sun sets perfectly in the center of the street looking west to New Jersey, happens twice a year, with the 2013 dates being May 28 and July 13. 

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium, wrote:

What will future civilizations think of Manhattan Island when they dig it up and find a carefully laid out network of streets and avenues? Surely the grid would be presumed to have astronomical significance, just as we have found for the pre-historic circle of large vertical rocks known as Stonehenge, in the Salisbury Plain of England. For Stonehenge, the special day is the summer solstice, when the Sun rises in perfect alignment with several of the stones, signaling the change of season. For Manhattan, a place where evening matters more than morning, that special day comes twice a year.

He detailed that although we think of the grid being exactly east/west, it’s actually tilted 30 degrees east from the north. In theory, each city with a grid system could have a “henge,” but it’s the unique shape of Manhattan as an island that makes it so striking. The best places to view Manhattanhenge are the cross streets at 14th, 23rd, 34th looking to the Empire State Building, 42nd looking to the Chrysler Building, and 57th.

Below are the exact dates and times for the 2013 Manhattanhenge, and we recommend arriving early the see the descent of our favorite star. As Tyson notes, these days run alongside Memorial Day and the Baseball’s All Star break, and “future anthropologists might conclude that, via the Sun, the people who called themselves Americans worshiped War and Baseball.” 

Half Sun Setting on the Grid

Tuesday, May 28 - 8:16 PM
Saturday, July 13 - 8:24 PM

Full Sun Setting on the Grid
Wednesday, May 29 8:15 PM
Friday, July 12 8:23 PM