May 27, 2015 8:00 pm

This Friday and Saturday: It’s the Return of Manhattanhenge!

Manhattanhenge, a photo by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Sunset looking down 34th Street. One of two days when the sunset is exactly aligned with the grid of streets in Manhattan.
Copyright © 2001, Neil deGrasse Tyson

How did it get to be the end of May already?

While we’ve been preparing for tomorrow night’s StarTalk Live! at the Apollo Theater, Manhattanhenge came sneaking up on us.

What is Manhattanhenge, you may ask?

Twice a year, the setting Sun aligns precisely with the streets of Manhattan, “creating a radiant glow of light across Manhattan’s brick and steel canyons, simultaneously illuminating both the north and south sides of every cross street of the borough’s grid. A rare and beautiful sight.” That description comes from our host, Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, who also coined the term “Manhattanhenge” to describe the event.

On Friday, May 29th, you’ll get to see the half Sun align on the street grid at 8:12 pm EDT. On Saturday, May 30th, you’ll see the full Sun align with the street grid at 8:12 pm EDT. (Neil, who took the picture of the sun on 34th Street shown here, says he prefers the half Sun for photographs.)

The process repeats in reverse in July, when the full Sun is visible on Sunday, July 12 at 8:20 pm EDT and the half Sun the day after, on Monday, July 13 at 8:21 pm EDT.

For a great description and the best cross streets to witness the event, head on over to the Manhattanhenge page on the American Museum of Natural History’s website.

Remember: in order to see the sun align with the street grid in Manhattan, you actually have to be in Manhattan, and not just on the Hudson River waterfront. If you’re down by the river, you can see the sun set, but you won’t see it framed by the buildings of NYC. It will just be another sunset.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
–Jeffrey Simons

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