What is Manhattanhenge?

Sunsets are one of the most beautiful phenomena that nature gives us. No matter what point of view we choose to see it, even if it is from the streets of a city. This is what they call the Manhattanhenge, which can be seen from the streets of Manhattan, New York.

the Manhattanhenge

The Manhattanhenge is a solstice.

They also call it Manhattan Solstice and it occurs when the sun aligns with the west and east streets of Manhattan. The cold buildings become walls, with the sun as the main protagonist in the center. It occurs twice a year, in late May and mid-July.

On those dates, thousands of people, both locals and tourists, gather in the streets to take pictures of the phenomenon or simply watch the spectacle. It is so popular that thousands of images flood social networks. Also, during this sunset, traffic is stopped in that area of the city.

It is not the only one in the world

Renowned astronomer Neil DeGrasse Tyson christened this phenomenon with that name in the late 1990s. The name is inspired by the large prehistoric rocks found in Salisbury, UK, called Stonehenge. There, during the boreal summer solstice, a phenomenon similar to that of Manhattan occurs.

Manhattan’s grid layout favors these views, the rest is provided by the universe. However, this type of spectacle can be observed from other large cities such as Chicago, Montreal or Toronto.

Manhattanhenge 2023
The view from 42nd Street in Manhattan – BBC – Getty Images
What time of year can you see it?

The phenomenon occurs three weeks (or 21 days) before and after the summer solstice. However, there is also the mid-sun Manhattanhenge, which also occurs twice a year. The day before the phenomenon can be seen and the day after the second sunset. This 2023, the phenomenon brought to us by nature along with urbanization, could be seen on May 29 and 30. Then, on July 12 and 13.

In turn, in the same city can be seen the reverse phenomenon during the winter. In this case it is the Manhattan sunrise, and occurs at sunrise in the months of December and January.

What is a solstice?

The solstice is the time of year with the greatest difference between day and night. In one hemisphere, the day is longer than the night, marking the beginning of summer. In the opposite hemisphere, it is the shortest day and marks the beginning of winter.

This is due to the tilt of the Earth’s axis of rotation. This tilt moves one pole away from the sun and toward the other. It also affects the equatorial line. For this reason, the Manhattanhenge phenomenon only occurs 4 days a year.

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