The Sun and Manhattenhenge

We saw this in the news recently — Manhattanhenge.

Photo: Shawn Hawk (From FlickrBlog)It’s a biannual occurrence in which the setting Sun aligns with the east-west streets of Manhattan’s famous grid.

(The term hails from Stonehenge, at which the Sun aligns with the stones of the famous monument on the Salisbury plains on the solstices, signalling the change of the season.)

This phenomenon applies to the streets that are laid out at a grid offset 28.9 degrees from true east-west (following the Commissioner’s Plan of 1811.)

The term was coined by Neil deGrasse Tyson in 2002. Tyson is an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History (one of the best natural history museums in the world, really, especially if you love dinosaurs).

His article on the matter can be read here.

Manhattanhenge 2009 occurred just — on Sunday, July 12. (Darn, we weren’t in Manhattan to catch it.)

The earlier one was on Saturday, May 30. (There are corresponding sunrise dates as well, if you’re the morning person sort.) As with the solstices and equinoxes, the dates will vary from year to year.

Sweet phenomenon. (Still, we must stop the Sun on 22 July.)

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