The Cosmic Alignment Known As 'Manhattanhenge' Begins Tonight

Manhattanhenge

The sunset lines up perfectly with Manhattan twice a year.Wikimedia Commons

New Yorkers will be given an astronomical treat tonight as the sunset perfectly lines up across the borough of Manhattan, giving a luminescent flare to the south and north sides of every street in town.

Manhattanhenge, or the Manhattan Solstice, comes twice yearly, in the summer, with two days providing a half-covered sun and two offering the whole thing. Tonight is the first round of the half-covered variety, and tomorrow will be the first time it's out in full force (so be careful out there, photographers). The next half-iteration will be July 11, before another full version the next day.

There's a due-east sunrise and due-west sunset twice a year (the age-old wisdom isn't all that wise) and Manhattan is set about 30 degrees east of north. If it were perfectly aligned, it would fall on the more-famous solar event, the equinox.

You can do this with any metropolis that's aligned on a grid, but what sets Manhattan apart is its perfect, unobstructed view of the horizon across the Hudson River to New Jersey and the city's lofty, well-known buildings. For the best view, head as far east as possible while still able to look west and see New Jersey. Some clear cross streets include 14th, 23rd, 34th. 42nd, and 57th, but the Empire State building and Chrysler building on 34th street and 42nd street, respectively, give those streets an even more mind-blowing look.

Half sun on the grid:
Tuesday, May 29 — 8:17 p.m. EDT
Thursday, July 12 — 8:25 p.m. EDT

Full sun on the grid:
Wednesday, May 30 — 8:16 p.m. EDT
Wednesday, July 11 — 8:24 p.m. EDT