Set Your Sights On Manhattanhenge Tonight

05/29/2012 10:52 AM |

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  • haydenplanetarium.org

Today, Manhattan streets will receive the rare, cosmic blessing that is Manhattanhenge: the biannual, half-hour event in which the setting sun lines up directly with the street grid.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and current director of the Hayden Planetarium, claims to have coined the term in 2002. He explains that Manhattanhenge occurs on days other than the equinoxes because the city’s grid is skewed 30 degrees east of geographic north. That means that this year, the sunset will harmonize with the streets on May 29 and July 12. One can also catch the full, aligned disc of the sun before it fully sets on May 30 and July 11. To view the bisected or whole sun touching down on the concrete horizon, Tyson advises the following:

For best effect, position yourself as far east in Manhattan as possible. But ensure that when you look west across the avenues you can still see New Jersey. Clear cross streets include 14th, 23rd, 34th. 42nd, 57th, and several streets adjacent to them. The Empire State building and the Chrysler building render 34th street and 42nd streets especially striking vistas.

Unfortunately, to our knowledge, the sun does not bestow Brooklyn with a henge, aside from the one this 2009 New Yorker piece describes as “an unusual bar of light” next to a Brooklyn-based character’s shower curtain.

Tyson predicts tonight’s Manhattanhenge to occur at 8:17 p.m.

[via the New York Observer]