For two days each spring and summer, the sunset aligns with the grid of Manhattan streets, creating a magnificent celestial spectacle. For a brief moment, the golden rays of the sun illuminate the buildings and traffic of the city with a breathtaking glow.
“This is the best sunset photo of the year you’ll have in this beautiful city,” Jackie Faherty, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History, told The Times in an interview in 2017. “Sometimes they call. that vacation on Instagram. “
The name Manhattanhenge is a tribute to Stonehenge, the monument in England believed to have been built by prehistoric men and used in rituals related to the sun. During the summer solstice, the sunrise is perfectly framed by its stone slabs.
This year’s event comes as the city is gradually reopening. In 2020, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic put the brakes on public observation of Manhattanhenge.
“Typically this is an event that invites crowds and clearly last year – particularly in May and July – it was not a welcome event,” Dr Faherty said in an email over recent.
But with the increase in vaccinations, a better understanding of how to stay safe, and an increasing number of visitors to the city, the crowd visiting Manhattanhenge might feel more normal in size this year.
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When is Manhattanhenge?
You can witness the first round of the dazzling spectacle on the following days and times, according to Dr. Faherty:
Saturday, May 29 at 8:13 p.m. EST.
Sunday May 30 at 8:12 p.m.
If you miss the show in May, you’ll have a second chance in about a month and a half.
Sunday, July 11 at 8:20 p.m. EST.
Monday July 12 at 8:21 p.m.
Why is this happening?
About 200 years ago, the architects who created the plan of modern Manhattan decided to build it using a grid system with avenues running north to south and streets to east and west. This choice inadvertently set the stage for Manhattanhenge, according to Dr. Faherty.
“They created this target for the sun to hit,” she said.
The sun moves slightly along the horizon throughout the year as the Earth tilts along its axis. This means that there are times of the year when the setting sun aligns with the east and west streets of Manhattan.
If Manhattan were laid out so that they were aligned exactly with east and west on a compass, Manhattanhenge would occur on the spring equinox and the fall equinox. Instead, the city is 30 degrees east and west cardinal, so the dates are shifted.
Manhattanhenge appears either as a full sun event or as a half sun event.
What is the difference between half sun and full sun?
Manhattanhenge takes place in pairs, in full sun one and a half sun the next. Full sun is when the low sun kisses the city gate, according to Dr. Faherty. Half sun is when the middle of the sun hits the grid.
Is the view better in May or July?
There isn’t much of a difference between the two except the order in which the sunsets occur. This year we will have half sun on May 29 and full sun on May 30. This summer we will have full sun on July 11 and half sun on July 12. half.
Whether you get a good show depends on how cloudy it is.
Where are the best places to look?
The key is to find a place with a clear view of New Jersey. Dr Faherty suggests going to a point where the streets are wide and the buildings are beautiful.
The most popular places are 42nd Street, with its flashing signs, as well as 57th, 34th, 23rd and 14th Streets. There you will see people entering and exiting the crosswalk, hoping to catch the perfect sunset. Because you have to be in the middle of the street to see Manhattanhenge, remember that safety comes first.
People also flock to the Pershing Square overpass near Grand Central Terminal, but this place is very close to traffic. The police are well aware of this and frequently disperse the crowds. A safer option is the Tudor City Viaduct near the United Nations, but both amateur and professional photographers get there very early and leave little room for the occasional sungazer.
Don’t forget the other boroughs, added Dr Faherty. Gantry Plaza State Park in Queens also has a great view of the show.
Are there any Covid issues related to Manhattanhenge crowds?
For those fully vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says outdoor activities, even among crowds, are safe. You can still wear a mask.
If you are not fully vaccinated, estimate the size of the crowd you are watching the setting sun with. In a small outdoor gathering where the immunization status of people is unknown, those who are not immune may wear a mask. But if a large number of people gather on the streets to watch Manhattanhenge near you, the CDC rates the risk as “the least safe.”
Michael Roston contributed reporting.