A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from May 28, 2006
Manhattan Solstice (Manhattanhenge or Sensational Sunset)
The "Manhattan Solstice" is when the sun is in perfect alignment with Manhattan's "grid" street pattern. You can stand on any street that runs perfectly east-west and see a magnificent sunset!

F. Y. I.
Stonehenge in the City
Q. I've heard about a "Manhattan solstice," when the sun supposedly lines up along the streets. Is it for real? When does it happen?

A. Here's the lowdown on the sundown, courtesy of Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. Next Sunday and on July 13, the sun will fully illuminate every Manhattan cross street (not the curved or angled ones) on the street grid during the last 15 minutes of daylight, and it will set on each street's center line. The sight is breathtaking.

This is a special photo opportunity, with parts of Manhattan's canyons getting illumination they normally don't get.

If the Manhattan street grid ran north-south and east-west, the alignment days would be the spring and fall equinoxes, the two days when the sun rises due east and sets due west. But the Manhattan grid is angled 30 degrees east from geographic north, shifting the days.

There are two corresponding mornings of sunrise right on the center lines of the Manhattan grid, Dr. Tyson wrote in an e-mail message: Dec. 5, 2006, and Jan. 8, 2007.

Saturday, May 27, 2006
The Perfect Sunset

NPR's calling it the "Sensational Sunset." I'm calling it "Sunday Study Break" (even though for us west coasters, it just means watching it on TV). Reason #1,049,293 why I'm dying to be in NYC right now?

Manhattan Solstice. And it purports to be one of the most magnificent, scintillating, eye-catching displays of one of my favorite things in the world: sunshine! Sound cheesy? I know. But come on. This is almost as good as if a giant cheese-machine were soon to be descending on earth. Can you imagine? The CheeseMachine. OMG. My limited but potent creative juices are flowing, watch out world.

On May 28, at 8:10 PM (EST), the Sun's rays will fall exactly parallel to the Manhattan skyline. Provided you are somewhere that has a clear, unobstructed view of the New Jersey horizon, you'll be able to see the sun cross every cross-street in Manhattan. How beautiful! Clearly these words do the coming experience it no justice. I apologize. Studying for the bar is soaking up every ounce of creativity left in my brain--which is close to naught--after having endured law school. So please. Check it out if you can. And if you can't make Sunday, just stop for a minute on any other day and . . . while smelling the roses . . . appreciate that this tiny 13-mile long city is operating to artistically interpret light from a fireball that is more than 93 million miles away.

May 28, 2004
Manhattanhenge Today

Besides it being the start of the summer, today is very special: The sun will set in the centerline of every NYC street (photobloggers, get ready!). American Museum of Natural History astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson desrcribes this phenomenon beautifully in the Natural History Magazine, explaining that like Stonehenge where the sun sets in alignment with stones during the summer solstice, Manhattan has two "special" days where the sun sets between buildings - May 28 and July 12:

On these days, the Sun fully illuminates every single cross street during the last fifteen minutes of daylight and sets exactly on the street's centerline. Upon studying American culture and what is important to it, future anthropologists might take the Manhattan alignments to be cosmic signs of Memorial Day and, of course, baseball's All-Star break.

If the Manhattan grid matched the geographic north-south line, then our special days would be the equinoxes, the two days on the calendar when the Sun rises due east and sets due west. But Manhattan is rotated 30 degrees east from geographic north, shifting the special days elsewhere in the calendar.

Posted by Barry Popik
Time/Weather • (1) Comments • Sunday, May 28, 2006 • Permalink