Monday, May 28, 2012

Don't Let the Sun Go Down on You at Manhattanhenge

New York has been described as the city that never sleeps. In this busy city, both visitors and locals alike can find things to do and see 24/7. If you happen to be in New York City in May and July, you won't want to Miss Manhattanhenge.
Manhattanhenge happens twice a year in the Manhattan borough in New York City. During this event, the sun aligns perfectly with the east-west grid pattern of the city streets which gives the appearance that the sun is setting between the buildings of the borough. Manhattanhenge, if you are wondering, is a term given to the above event by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson in 2002. This term is tongue in cheek and pays homage to another popular landmark called Stonehenge. Stonehenge is located on the Salisbury Plain in England. Other cities with a uniform grid pattern also have similar events. For example, in Chicago, Illinois, the setting sun lines up with the street grid system on September 25th. This is known as Chicagohenge. On October 25th and February 16th, Torontohenge can be see in the city of Toronto in Ontario, Canada.
As luck would have it, the borough of Manhattan was created on an east-west grid pattern in 1811. The sun aligns perfectly with this grid pattern on certain days of the year, providing those in the city with a rare treat. This is because the sun rises due east and sets due west only on certain day of the year. Although the sun rises in the east every day and sets in the west every day, it does so slightly to the east and west of the horizon. This is why the effect can only be seen several days per year.
In 2011, Manhattanhenge can be observed on May 30 and May 31st as well as on July 11 and July 12th. On Monday, May 30 and Tuesday May 31st, you can see the effect at 7:47 pm New York time. On Monday, July 11th and Tuesday, July 12th, you can see the effect around 7:55pm New York time.
In order to get the best visual effect, you need to be as Far East in Manhattan as possible. When you look west across the Avenues of Manhattan, you should be able to see New Jersey in the distance. You should be able to see the effect at most of the cross streets if you have a clear view of the New Jersey horizon. Locals recommend viewing the effect specifically at the following streets: 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd, and 57th. You can also most likely view Manhattanhenge on the streets immediately preceding or following the above listed ones.
Although some cynics say that Manhattanhenge just results in stalled traffic and blinded drivers, the reality is that the effect is quite remarkable. At sunset, you can see the sun setting between buildings as the light is reflected off the glass windows in the buildings which line the street. In fact, this amazing sight should surely be on your "bucket list" of things to do in New York City. If you decide to go to take in the event, remember that the locals claim that views from 34th and 42nd streets are especially breathtaking. On these streets, you'll also be able to view the Empire State Building and the Chrysler building too.
Cecelia Owens loves travel and she does freelance writing for the top South African travel comparison website,
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