Manhattanhenge is an awe-inspiring phenomenon that occurs twice yearly in New York City!
Assuming the weather cooperates, then on July 11th a half sun will align itself with the city’s grid at a little after 8 PM, creating a wonderful view of the sunset along every street. July 12th there will be a full sun on the grid, and July 13th another half sun (New York City Travel Tips).
– Friday, July 11, 2014: Half Sun on the grid
– Saturday, July 12, 2014: Full Sun on the grid
– Sunday, July 13, 2014: Half Sun on the grid
|Sunset looking down 34th Street. One of two days when the sunset is exactly aligned with the grid of streets in Manhattan. Photo © Neil deGrasse Tyson, 2001|
As described on the Hayden Planetarium website:
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 … when the setting Sun aligns precisely with the Manhattan street grid, creating a radiant glow of light across Manhattan’s brick and steel canyons, simultaneously illuminating both the north and south sides of every cross street of the borough’s grid. A rare and beautiful sight.
Here’s another photo of Manhattanhenge, this one from Wikipedia:
|42nd Street, July 13, 2006|
According to Wikipedia, this phenomenon is not unique to New York City, but occurs in many cities with “grids”:
The same phenomenon happens in other cities with a uniform street grid. Such occurrences would coincide with the vernal and autumnal equinox only if the grid plan were laid out precisely north-south and east-west, and perfectly aligned with true north as opposed to magnetic north. The situation in Baltimore, Maryland comes fairly close, with its sunrises on March 25 and September 18 and sunsets on March 12 and September 29. In Chicago, Illinois, the setting sun lines up with the grid system on September 25, a phenomenon known similarly as Chicagohenge. In Toronto, Ontario, Canada, the setting sun lines up with the east–west streets on October 25 and February 16, a phenomenon known locally as Torontohenge. In Montreal, Quebec, Canada, there may be a Montrealhenge each year on July 12.