New Yorkers are getting ready to marvel at the Manhattanhenge.
For two days each spring and summer, the sunset harmonizes with the street network of Manhattan, creating a magnificent celestial display. For a brief moment, the sun's golden rays illuminate the city's buildings and traffic with a breathtaking glow.
It's the best sunset picture of the year you can take in this beautiful city. We in New York sometimes call it the Instagram vacation because so many people travel to the city just for that photo.
Manhattanhenges pays homage to Stonehenge, the monument in England that is believed to have been built and used in rituals by prehistoric people. During the summer solstice, the sunrise there is perfectly framed by its stone slabs.
Last year, Manhattanhenge was blocked by pesky clouds during its two two-day appearances in May and July. Weather permitting, you can see the incredible spectacle on the following days and times:
Tue, May 29, 8:13 p.m
Wed., May 30, 8:12 p.m
In July you will get a second chance.
Thursday, July 12, 8:20 p.m
Fri, July 13, 8:21 p.m
Why is this happening?
About 200 years ago, the architects who designed modern Manhattan decided to build a street network with avenues leading north and south and streets leading east and west. This choice set the stage for Manhattanhenge.
The sun moves slightly along the horizon throughout the year while the Earth tilts along its axis. That means there are times of year when the setting sun aligns with the streets running east and west in Manhattan.
If Manhattan were designed to face exactly east and west on a compass, Manhattanhenge would occur on the spring equinox and autumn equinox. Instead, the city is 30 degrees from Cardinal East and West, so the dates are offset.
Manhattanhenge appears as either a full solar event or a half solar event.
What is the difference between half sun and full sun?
Manhattanhenge appears in pairs, as a full sun on one day and half sun on the second. Full sun is when the bottom of the sun kisses the city grid. Half Sun is when the center of the sun touches the grid.
There is no real difference between the two other than the order in which the sunsets occur. This year we will see half sun on May 29th and full sun on May 30th. This summer full sun comes on July 12th and half sun on July 13th.
Where are the best places to watch?
The key is to find a spot with a clear view of New Jersey, where the streets are wide and the buildings are beautiful.
The most popular spots are 42nd Street with its flashing signs, as well as 57th, 34th, 23rd and 14th Streets. There you'll see people walking up and down the zebra crossings hoping to capture the perfect sunset. Since you have to be in the middle of the street to see the Manhattanhenge, remember that safety comes first.
People also crowd to the Pershing Square overpass near Grand Central Terminal, but this place is very close to traffic. The police are aware of this and often disperse the crowds. A safer option is the Tudor City flyover near the United Nations, but amateur and professional photographers get there very early, leaving little room for the beginner.
Don't forget the other districts, Gantry Plaza State Park in Queens also has a nice view of the spectacle.