Manhattanhenge 2013

By Vladimir Brezina

Manhattanhenge is the phenomenon for which, future archeologists might well conclude, the rectangular street grid of Manhattan was built.  As Neil deGrasse Tyson, the astronomer who has spread the word about Manhattanhenge, writes:

What will future civilizations think of Manhattan Island when they dig it up and find a carefully laid out network of streets and avenues? Surely the grid would be presumed to have astronomical significance, just as we have found for the pre-historic circle of large vertical rocks known as Stonehenge, in the Salisbury Plain of England. For Stonehenge, the special day is the summer solstice, when the Sun rises in perfect alignment with several of the stones, signaling the change of season.

For Manhattan, a place where evening matters more than morning, that special day comes twice a year. For 2013 they fall on May 28th, and July 13th, when the setting Sun aligns precisely with the Manhattan street grid, 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. These two days happen to correspond with Memorial Day and Baseball’s All Star break. Future anthropologists might conclude that, via the Sun, the people who called themselves Americans worshiped War and Baseball.

So Manhattanhenge proper—when half of the sun’s disk would have appeared on the horizon at the end of the cross streets at sunset—was actually yesterday, May 28th. But it was cloudy. And anyway, from Midtown Manhattan it’s not really possible to keep the sun in sight as it sinks all the way down to the horizon. New Jersey is in the way.

But today, May 29th, the full disk of the sun was to appear at the end of the cross streets at sunset. Even better!

Two years ago I observed Manhattanhenge from 34th Street. Today, for a change, I went to 42nd Street.

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The venue: 42nd Street

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Photographers gather

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That’s where it will happen

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Here it comes!

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It’s going to be good!

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Excitement mounts ;-)

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The magic moment

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Crowds worship the setting Sun on 42nd Street

96 responses to “Manhattanhenge 2013

  1. It really is astonishingly moving to see the sun framed like that, just at the end of the street. You can imagine how the ancients must have felt, looking at it through the frames of their massive rock ‘henge’. Terrific series, Vlad, complete with ‘worshipers’ :)

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    • Yes, especially when it was associated with an emotional religious ritual. Interestingly, year by year, Manhattanhenge may be moving in that direction too…

      However, the ancients did not have telephoto lenses, which make the phenomenon much more striking :-)

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  2. STUNNING PHOTOS!

    NE ENCOURAGED! BE BLESSED!

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  3. Had no idea about this

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  4. Oh, that’s brilliant!

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  5. Beautiful photos! Nothing like being in EXACTLY the right place at EXACTLY the right time! Beautiful!

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  6. Allyson Mellone

    You got it! Thanks so much for sharing it! :)

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  7. Great photos, Vladimir and a nice new fact to know, thank you ;) ! Greetings from Anja

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  8. Awesome. I can’t believe how long I lived in the tri-state area and never made a point of seeing that. I need to take a trip in for henge-viewing. p.s. Adore…ADORE…the crowd photos! :)

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  9. Oddly, I like the photos before the sun is framed better than the ones with the sun. Maybe because they are more unusual to me. It is funny how we dig things up and decide what they mean. I’m just glad people still gather and are excited to see the sunset! :)

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  10. Wonderful way to honor the beauty and mystery of the man made landscape. Thank you for sharing.

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  11. I like to see the photos from so far away. They have atmosphere and I like N.Y. as town as well.

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  12. WOW!!! Really amazing shots here. Those sunset ones are crazy!

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  13. Wow, that is pretty spectacular!

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  14. What a great moment!

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  15. This is such a marvelous post. As a prehistorian I love the ‘henge’ intro, but the pics are fabulous. Thank you so much.

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  16. Awesome view and brilliant photos! I wish I could be there ;)

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  17. It is so nice!!! I think that from the 34th is may be more impressive…
    I love the idea that still these kind of things are able to stop the rhythm of the city and, for a while, NY stands, only an expectant beating, waiting for the Old God to rise again….We are not so different from the old Egyptians, are we?

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    • A lovely vision! Actually NYC doesn’t stop—you don’t expect a mere Sun to stop NYC, do you? Most people don’t know about it—but the word is getting out to more and more people each year :-)

      Like

  18. Pingback: New Yorkers get second chance to see monumental Manhattanhenge | The Fifth Column

  19. Love the photos Vladimir. Something like this could almost make me want to visit the city :-)

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  20. Wowee!! Wish I could have been there to witness this fantastic phenomenon. Great pics, Vlad. :)

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  21. They say you learn something new every day… thank you for today’s lesson…. awesome photographs as always

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  22. My goodness! these pictures are terrific. One lives and learns…could whomsoever ‘designed’ Manhattan streets have deliberately chosen this aspect to be viewed at a certain time on a certain day – or two? And was this particular day designated Memorial Day on the strength of what occurs there…and..? Oh! what the heck! suffice to say it’s impressive Now, must one weave a whole new story around Stonehenge and Newgrange? ,,Food for thought, what!?

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  23. That’s fascinating. I’ve never even heard about this phenomenon. Thanks for sharing!

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  24. All those people with their cameras and I never heard of this before. :-)

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  25. Very beautiful sunset..! :-)

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  26. Wow, so many people…I can’t imagine this….but love your images :-)
    The last sunset I watched…this evening…there was only me and the dogs up a hill looking over the ocean. Different worlds :-)

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  27. awesome!! I have always wanted to witness this.

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  28. Holy sunsets, Batman!
    That is incredible!
    Don’t hold that against us. (NJ) ;-)

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  29. Hello Vladimir,
    These photos are great – what a treat! “The magic moment” is my favorite, even I like them all..
    With warm greetings from sunny Tucson – Alicja

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  30. Wonderful Vlad. I was close by, if I’d known I would have appeared ! Simply wonderful sunset.

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  31. Always great show !
    Thank you Vladi ;-)

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  32. When did the legend first take hold? There wasn’t a word ever breathed about this for as long as I lived in New York (all my life, except for the last 13 years)! As archaeological myth it is INSPIRED. I always suspected Stonehenge actually bears the same type of creative history.
    (OTOH, when we lived on Long Island, we would fairly often go to Sea Cliff (you’ve surely paddled past it) and sit on the bench in the tiny park at the head of the cliff to watch the sun go down. There were usually several people who gathered. And every time we’d all applaud the wonderful spectacle!)

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    • “Legend” may not be the right word, since at least the phenomenon actually exists :-)

      But I agree that the concept is inspired, well-calculated to take a hold in popular culture. And yes, something similar may have happened with Stonehenge…

      Although no doubt people noticed the phenomenon before, nobody thought about it too much until the concept of Manhattanhenge was introduced by Neil deGrasse Tyson, according to Wikipedia in an article in 2002. So it is indeed pretty recent.

      We’ve paddled past Sea Cliff many times… :-)

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  33. Are you telling me I left four days too early???

    PS – I adore Neil deGrasse Tyson.

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  34. I wish I were there. Great, great, great!

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  36. How wonderful! I love the picture of the crowd and of course, the sunset is gorgeous.

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  37. I just visited this post again and once more enjoyed the photos of this momentous day. Thank you.

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  38. Fascinating! Great photos and something I’d not heard of before – love the way people want it to mean something! :)

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  39. Wow… Great shots!

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  40. Awesome! Roll on July 13th. I will be in the Algarve but will try to remember to check when I get back. :)

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  42. Beautifully done and introced the golden hour to us!!

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