Tyson figures out how to make astronomy popular: Name it “Manhattanhenge,” watch the millions flock to see it

July 12, 2012

Sunrise over Stonehenge on the summer solstice...

Sunrise over Stonehenge on the summer solstice, June 21, 2005 — the analogy of Manhattan’s skyscrapers to the rocks of Stonehenge is obvious (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dr. at the November 29, 2005 meeting of the NA...

Dr. Tyson at the November 29, 2005 meeting of the NASA Advisory Council, in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some time ago astronomy phenom Neil de Grasse Tyson mentioned the twice-a-year happenstance of the sun’s setting perfectly in line with New York City’s east-west gridded streets.  On many streets, on most streets, you can watch the sun all the way down to the horizon, between the massive “rocks” of Manhattan skyscrapers, almost like watching the solstices at Stonehenge.

Tyson called it “Manhattan henge.”

July 11, 2012, the crowds turn out to see the phenomenon.  How many years ago was it no one bothered to give it a second glance?

Have you seen it?

In your hometown or city, what dates would the sun set right down the east-west axis of some street, if there are any?

Manhattanhenge 2011 | The Commuter

Manhattanhenge 2011 | The Commuter (Photo credit: MichaelTapp)

Michael Tapp photographs a lot of stuff around Manhattan, and he also provided a link to an NPR Science Friday video in which Tyson explains the phenomenon.  So, go see Tapp’s work (hey, maybe buy some of it); and go see Tyson’s explanation.

Manhattanhenge on 42d Street - Bloomberg Businessweek photo - Xinhua News

The sun shines down 42nd Street in New York City at sunset during “Manhattanhenge,” May 30, 2011. Photographer: Xinhua News Agency/eyevine/Redux

According to Bloomberg/Businessweek:

On May 30 at 8:16 p.m. and again on July 11 at 8:24 p.m., Manhattanhenge reaches its point of perfection as the full setting sun aligns with the city’s grid of East-West streets, according to the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium. The best places to view the fiery canyon of skyscrapers are at 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd, 57th Streets. The Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building offer especially good views.

Manhattanhenge on 34th Street, by Chaitanya Kapadia / UGC

Manhattanhenge on 34th Street, by Chaitanya Kapadia / UGC – Here’s what Chaitanya Kapadia says about this picture: “I had set up on a nice spot right in the middle of 34th Street, between the double yellow lines with a few photographers wanting to get the Empire State Building in my shot. However, I should have anticipated photographers to just swarm the streets when the sun lined up with the grid. Minutes later, the police drove down the middle of the road, getting everyone out, which only meant stepping to the side until they passed you, and then right back. Took this using three exposures hand-held.”

Manhattanhenge, July 11, 2012, by Andy Dallos

Manhattanhenge, July 11, 2012, by Andy Dallos

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