May 28, 2014 8:15 pm

Tomorrow: Manhattanhenge at Sunset, Stargazing at Night!


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

Can you be two places at once tomorrow night? I only ask because you may be torn between two celestial options tomorrow, Thursday May 29th. That’s because tomorrow is both the return of Manhattanhenge and Astronomy Night on the Intrepid as part of the World Science Festival.

First of all, a brief explanation of what Manhattanhenge is, for those who may not know.

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 Thursday, May 29th, you’ll get to see the half Sun align on the street grid at 8:16 pm EDT. On Friday, May 30th, you’ll see the full Sun align with the street grid at 8:18 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 Friday, July 11 at 8:24 pm EDT and the half Sun the day after, on Saturday, July 12 at 8:25 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.

Location is Everything

Of course, in order to see the sun align with the street grid in Manhattan, you actually have to be in Manhattan. And therein lies the problem for anyone attending Astronomy Night at the Intrepid. The Intrepid is docked on the west side of Manhattan, in the Hudson River. If you’re there, you can see the sun set, but you won’t see it framed by the buildings of NYC. It will just be another sunset from Pier 86, sans frame.

Still, for many members of the StarTalk Radio Cosmic Community, there’s no place they’d rather be than the Intrepid.

Our social media coordinator, Stacey Severn, tells me that members of the StarTalk Cosmic Community will be out in force for Astronomy Night at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in NYC for a public viewing night on Thursday, May 29th on Pier 86. It’s a free event will take place from 7:30 – 10:30, with arrival for astronomers beginning around 6:15 to set up telescopes. The event is free, but registration is still required. Click here to register.

Cosmic Community inspiring kids at Spacefest

Inspiring the next generation to keep looking up.  The Cosmic Community on location at the Intrepid last year. Photo Credit: Stacey David Severn

In addition to the outside viewing, there will also be talks and hands-on demonstrations inside the Museum itself, making Astronomy Night a rain or (star)shine event! And, because this Astronomy Night is part of the World Science Festival, there are even more events going on, including a conversation with astronaut John Grunsfeld, a five-time shuttle veteran and the current Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, and a screening of the movie, Gravity, in the first ever screening of in the new Space Shuttle Pavilion. While Astronomy Night is free, the other events may not be. Get all the details here.

Which event will you choose? The setting sun or the shining stars? Of course, if you’re not an astronomer, maybe you can even do both. But whichever you choose, take plenty of pictures, and then post them here in our comments, or share them with us on Instagram.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!

–Jeffrey Simons


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