Manhattanhenge Sunset Photos Capture Special New York Phenomenon

A phenomenon known as Manhattanhenge, where the sunset aligns with the Manhattan grid's east-west streets, occurred on July 11, for the last full alignment of the year.

On July 12, a half sun aligned with the grid at around 8:30 p.m. local time, but the next full-sun Manhattanhenge will occur in 2023. Photographers and sightseers alike flocked to watch the spectacular sight.

The term Manhattenhenge was coined by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, comparing the rare alignment of the sun with the grid to the way the sun rises behind the Heel Stone of the U.K.'s neolithic Stonehenge monument. It is thought that Stonehenge was built specifically in this way to frame the solstice sunrise in late June, which is the day of the year with the longest hours of daylight. However, the Manhattan alignment is a serendipitous accident.

Manhattanhenge occurs around three weeks before and after the solstice on June 21, which this year, fell on May 30 and July 12. The best place to view the unique sight is at the island's east-west thoroughfares, notably 14th Street, 23rd Street, 34th Street, 42nd Street and 57th Street, but it is also possible to see Manhattanhenge from the Long Island City section of Queens, across the East River.

The sunrise aligns with the Manhattan grid in December and January, the so-called Reverse Manhattanhenges flanking the winter solstice, however, the summer alignment is by far the most popular with visitors.

People have increasingly flocked to view the phenomenon over the last few years, with social media allowing viewers to share the spectacular sight for millions to see.

Other city grids also see a similar effect at certain times of the year: Chicagohenge and Baltimorehenge occur close to the spring and autumn equinoxes in March and September, while Torontohenge occurs in February and October.

However, Manhattanhenge garners the most attention, not only due to New York being a very popular tourist destination, but also because the position of the city itself serves to make the view of the setting sun ever more spectacular. According to deGrasse Tyson, Manhattan is lucky in that the east-west axis has a clear view to the horizon across the Hudson River, and has tall buildings that frame the setting sun in a picturesque way.

Unfortunately, the weather can ruin optimistic plans to snap the perfect Manhattanhenge picture, as if it's overcast or raining, the biannual sunset may not even be visible. In that case, as occurred in 2016 and 2013, disappointed viewers will have to wait until late May next year.

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Stock image of Manhattanhenge along 42nd Street. The phenomenon occurs only twice a year either side of the summer solstice. iStock / Getty Images Plus