Manhattan streets and sun align to create spectacular display

Check out my guest post at the venerable Times Online:

Built into the streets of New York City is a solar calendar on a truly massive scale. Every year around July 12th, New Yorkers are treated to a spectacular phenomenon as the setting sun aligns directly with the east-west streets of Manhattan's main grid, turning them into canyons filled with golden light. The effect is known as Manhattanhenge in reference to the much older stone monument near Salisbury. The term was coined in 2002 by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the charismatic director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History.


The affected streets in the centre of Manhattan were laid down according to the Commissioner's Plan of 1811, which stipulated a grid offset of 28.9 degrees from true east-west. As a result, the low sun aligns with the streets twice for each solstice. On May 28th and July 12th, diplomats standing at street level outside the United Nations Headquarters will be able to watch the sun set at the other end of 42nd St, clear across Manhattan. In winter the effect is reversed, and on December 5th and January 8th, dawn commuters can see the sunrise framed by the skyscrapers of New York City.

Continue reading at Science Central, and if you can't be in NYC personally, console yourself with these incredible images on Flickr.

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