Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Don't you love the way the New Yorkers surge back and forth across the street to get the precise viewing of Manhattanhenge? Do you think any of the people in vehicles passing by wondered what the heck was going on?

Manhattanhenge is a phenomenon where the setting or rising sun is aligned with the even-numbered east/west streets of Manhattan. Part of its name is derived from Stonehenge, the ancient monument where the sun crosses a central axis at the summer and winter solstice.

Manhattanhenge occurs a short time before the solstice and again a short time afterwards. In 2011 the first sighting was on May 31 and the second will be this evening, July 12, though sightings are also possible the day on either side. In the winter the phenomenon occurs at sunrise around Dec. 5 and Jan. 8, but more favourable weather conditions make summer a better season for viewing.

According to the Hayden Planetarium, it is best to place yourself as far east as possible in Manhattan. Clear cross streets include 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd, 57th and several streets adjacent to them. The Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building make 34th and 42nd streets especially striking vistas. The view is westward over New Jersey.

The "henge" phenomenon also occurs in other cities having an approximate east/west grid of streets, so this year there was Chicagohenge on April 13, Montrealhenge on June 12 and the next Torontohenge is expected Oct. 24/25. The best streets for Toronto viewing are King St. and Queen St.