Manhattanhenge: The “Best Sunset of the Year” Comes to New York City in July

New York City never ceases to amaze, but it can be difficult to see the city “in a new light.” After all, how many ways can one photograph the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, or the Brooklyn Bridge? But, four times every year, something unique and beautiful happens on the streets of Manhattan. It’s a phenomenon known as “Manhattanhenge.”

The term Manhattanhenge was first coined by NYC native and famed astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson. It’s an obvious play on England’s popular Stonehenge. The monument was designed so that, when viewed from its center during the summer solstice, the rays of the rising sun align perfectly with the “Heel Stone.”

What Is Manhattanhenge?

This same concept is easily applied to downtown Manhattan which was designed on a mostly square grid that’s rotated 29° from east to west. For just four days a year — on days predictably spaced around the summer solstice — the azimuth of the sunset is exactly 299° (or 29° north of true West). The angle aligns perfectly with the city’s grid, illuminating its streets and skyscrapers in a way that’s unlike any other day of the year. Viewers in downtown NYC looking westward toward New Jersey will the see the full sun hovering just above the horizon line, squarely between the buildings on either side. The display is truly spectacular!

The event is easily explained in geographical terms, but that makes it no less spectacular. Its popularity has exploded in recent years. Now, photographers flock to the city’s major cross streets every year for a chance to capture some truly rare and memorable photo ops.

When Is It?

The dates are based on the sunset at specific times of year. However, the event is typically around June 21. The final two dates for Manhattanhenge 2017 are:

  • Wednesday, July 12 at 8:20 pm (full sun)
  • Thursday, July 13 at 8:21 pm (half sun)

Plan to arrive at least a half-hour early for optimal viewing. Note that optimal viewing of the event requires ideal weather conditions (i.e. clear, sunny skies).

Where Is It?

The phenomenon is best viewed from the city’s primary cross streets, including 14th, 34th, 42nd, 57th, and 79th. For particularly spectacular photo ops, check out 34th (home of the Empire State Building) or 42nd where the Chrysler Building is located.

For more information, the American Museum of Natural History hosts annual talks and educational lectures about Manhattanhenge.