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.