Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Manhattan Sunset

Manhattan Sunset, 2001.
Click here for larger image in its own window.
Image: Neil deGrasse Tyson/AMNH.

Tonight at 820pm EST, Manhattan will be flooded with sunlight because the sun will set precisely on the centerline of every street.

The skyscrapers that line Manhattan streets usually hide the setting sun, casting the streets into shadows before sunset. If Manhattan’s road grid was perfectly aligned east to west, today’s effect would instead occur on the Vernal and Autumnal Equinoxes, March 21 and September 21, which are the only two days when the sun rises and sets directly in the east and west. But because Manhattan’s streets are rotated 30 degrees east from true north, this same effect happens every May 28 and July 12, instead.



  1. #1 turtlebella
    May 28, 2006

    Cool! I never knew that.

  2. #2 Tabor
    May 29, 2006

    What a nice piece of trivia. This would be great bar talk at the time it is happening!

  3. #3 Dave Munger
    May 29, 2006

    I can remember seeing that phenomenon several times when I lived in New York. Neat!

  4. #4 Abel PharmBoy
    May 29, 2006

    I’ll post about this later, but even returning from the Rocky Mountains after 10 years, there is nothing as beautiful as the manmade grandeur of Manhattan as viewed from across the Hudson at night. The sunset shot is amazing – thanks so much!

  5. #5 Alon Levy
    May 29, 2006

    I read about it yesterday or the day before. I also read that in similar vein, the sun rises on the centerline of each street on two days of the year, one in mid-January and one in late November. Is that effect as spectacular as this of the centerline sunset?

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