The sun sets along 42nd Street in Manhattan during an annual phenomenon known as "Manhattanhenge", when the sun aligns perfectly with the city's transit grid, Wednesday, May 29, 2013, in NY. And who were the primitive people who built it? "And tall buildings that line the streets create a vertical channel to frame the setting Sun, creating a striking photographic opportunity". "Manhattanhenge", they call it - as in "Stonehenge", another primitive monument where a similar phenomenon occurs. On the following night, at 8:12 p.m. EDT, you will see a "full sun", with the entire solar disk resting above the horizon.
The best places to watch Manhattanhenge is along 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd, and 57th and the various cross streets that run adjacent to them. In 2001 Tyson wrote an article for the American Museum of Natural History in which he described the phenomenon occurring in New York City.
Weather permitting, New York City's "Manhattanhenge" returns at 8:13 p.m. EDT on Tuesday. Tyson compared the sun's position at the Stonehenge at the time of "summer solstice" to that of the alignment of the sun along the city of Manhattan.
If you miss Manhattanhenge on Tuesday, you'll have three more opportunities this summer. On the first July date, a "full sun" will appear at 8:20 p.m. EDT, while on the second date, we get the "half sun" effect at 8:21 p.m. EDT. The May 29 and July 13 dates, it should be noted, are "half sun" events - only half the orb will be sticking up over the horizon.
Manhattanhenge has also been dubbed the "Manhattan solstice". That happens twice - first as the sun is climbing toward the solstice in late May, and then for a second time after the solstice, as the sun migrates back toward the south in early July. He first discovered Manhattan's perfectly aligned sunset in the mid-1990s.
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While we say that the sun sets in the west, most times that's not exactly the case.
We should also note that the times provided below are not for the exact moment of sunset.
The city's street plan, as Tyson has pointed out, is not aligned with the geographic North - it skews 30 degrees east.
Manhattanhenge straddles the summer solstice on June 21 over two pairs of days - one that happens several weeks before the solstice, and the other several weeks after.