Tag Archives: Street Grid

Weekly Photo Challenge & Travel Theme: Split-Second Story in the Big City

By Vladimir Brezina

This week’s Photo Challenge is Split-Second Story, and Ailsa’s travel-themed photo challenge is Cities.

A perfect conjunction!

For yesterday and today were days of Manhattanhenge, that urban astronomical phenomenon in which the sun appears, for a brief moment just at sunset, at the ends of the cross-streets of Manhattan’s street grid.

Of course, the sun has to be visible at sunset. Yesterday was cloudy. Today was more promising. So I joined the Manhattanhenge-watching crowd—smaller than usual this year because of the uncertain weather—at 57th Street and Park Avenue. As we waited, a rain shower moved in. (Now I know how astronomers must feel, waiting nervously for that once-in-a-century conjunction or eclipse, only to have clouds move in at the last minute…)

But just at the moment of sunset, the sun appeared through the mist!  I got a few photos.

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But the visibility was not ideal, and in addition I realized only too late that at the end of 57th Street there is a big building, across the Hudson in New Jersey, that blocks the view! As another photographer standing next to me remarked, Jersey always screws things up…

The spectacle was much more impressive last year at 42nd Street:

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… and in 2011 at 34th Street:

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But there’s always another chance—Manhattanhenge repeats on July 11th and 12th!

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