Published on Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday sunset in Manhattan: 'Unique in the Universe'

Twice a year, Mother Nature orchestrates a unique spectacle in the Manhattan sky: the setting sun aligns perfectly with the man-made grid, sending solar light scuttling across the city's streets and skyscrapers.

Like an ancient religious ceremony, Manhattanhenge falls at a slightly different time each year. For 2013, it's at sunset this Friday and Saturday night.

The perfect viewing of the full sun is Friday at 8:23 p.m., according to New York's Museum of Natural History, and as far east as possible, at a spot from which you can see New Jersey.

The best cross streets are 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd and 57th, but there is nothing quite like including the Empire State and Chrysler buildings, on 34th and 42nd streets, in the scene.

Mock-up courtesy of Museum of Natural History

(Mock-up courtesy of Museum of Natural History)

Many people prefer the view of the half-sun peeking over the horizon, which will take place on Saturday at 8:24 p.m.

Had Manhattan's grid been perfectly aligned with the geographic north-south line, then Manhattanhenge would coincide with the equinoxes, the Museum notes.

But the grid is rotated 30 degrees east from geographic north, shifting the days of alignment by a couple of weeks.

While any city with a rectangular grid has days when the setting sun aligns with its streets, Manhattan also has a clear view to the horizon, across the Hudson River to New Jersey, and canyons of narrow streets framed by unique tall buildings that frame the setting sun.

So, the Museum notes, "Manhattanhenge may just be a unique urban phenomenon in the world, if not the universe."

By Cheryl Rosen

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