Manhattanhenge 2024: When and How To See The Most Anticipated Sunset and Sunrise in NYC

3rd May 2024
Manhattanhenge 2024: When and How To See The Most Anticipated Sunset and Sunrise in NYC

In the bustling heart of New York City, amidst the eternal hum of urban life, Manhattanhenge emerges several times a year – a celestial spectacle that captivates all who behold it, rendering them momentarily frozen in awe. In this article, you will learn what Manhattanhenge is, who and why it was named this way, on what dates it will occur and how best to observe it.

What Is the Manhattanhenge Effect?

Manhattanhenge photo 1
Credit: Shutterstock / Mihai_Andritoiu

Manhattanhenge is an extraordinary phenomenon where the setting or rising sun perfectly aligns with the east-west streets of Manhattan’s main grid, casting its rays to brilliantly illuminate the north and south sides of every transverse street on the island. This bathes the city’s canyon of buildings in a radiant golden hue.

It transcends mere astronomy. It’s a poetic interplay between the city and the cosmos, unmatched by any other sunrise or sunset. The skyscrapers, those stalwart behemoths of steel and glass, elegantly bow before the celestial spectacle, allowing its luminance to cascade down Manhattan’s streets, transforming them into shimmering streams of light.

Why Is It Called Manhattanhenge?

One of the most famous landmarks in the United Kingdom, Stonehenge is regarded as an English Heritage. Image credit: Captain Skyhigh via Getty Images

People dub it so due to its striking resemblance to Stonehenge, nestled in Wiltshire, England. The ancient stones of this monument align precisely with the summer solstice sunrise. Similarly, Manhattan’s street grid mirrors this alignment with the sun, serving as a poignant reminder that even within the most urban of landscapes, we remain subject to the grand orchestration of the cosmos.

The term is credited to the renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, a proud native of New York City. Tyson initially introduced this phenomenon in 1997 within the pages of the Natural History journal. In subsequent interviews, he recounted coining the term “Manhattanhenge,” drawing inspiration from his pilgrimage to Stonehenge.

Neil Degrasse Tyson turns up for Manhattanhenge. Credit:

“I visited Stonehenge as a kid at age 15 … and that stuck with me, which is why I named this phenomenon in Manhattan where the sun sets along the street grid… I named that Manhattanhenge, sort of harkening back to my early days thinking about the alignment of the sun and structures that we might build”, Neil de Grasse Tyson said. 

Why Does Manhattanhenge Happen Twice a Year?

This phenomenon occurs bi-annually due to the layout of Manhattan’s street grid in relation to the solar cycle. Manhattan’s grid is angled approximately 30 degrees east of true north, causing the east-west streets to deviate from perfect alignment with sunrise and sunset directions for most of the year. However, twice annually, the sun’s path aligns precisely with these streets.

The specific dates of Manhattanhenge sunset hinge on the timing of the summer solstice. Conversely, the dates of sunrise, also known as reverse Manhattanhenge, are evenly distributed around the winter solstice. It’s worth noting that while Manhattanhenge sunrise offers a unique perspective, it may not be as visually striking due to the typical wintry conditions in New York, including morning light, snow, and potential cloud cover that can obscure visibility.

Does Manhattanhenge Occur In Other Cities?

Does Manhattanhenge occur in other cities?
California Henge in San Francisco. Credit:

Indeed, similar phenomena occur in other cities with street grids aligned to correspond with the sun’s movements. Cities like Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, and San Francisco share in this captivating alignment. Interestingly, in Milton Keynes, UK, architects deliberately adjusted the road grid by several degrees, ensuring the main street perfectly frames the sun during the summer and winter solstices.

However, it’s in Manhattan where you’ll witness the most awe-inspiring visual spectacle, thanks to the towering skyscrapers that define New York City’s skyline. The sheer height and density of Manhattan’s buildings serve as an unparalleled backdrop for both sunset and sunrise, orchestrating a breathtaking interplay of light and shadow that remains unmatched elsewhere.

When Is Manhattanhenge In 2024?

For those gearing up to witness the phenomenon for the first time, it’s essential to mark your calendars with the Manhattanhenge dates for 2024:

  • May 29, 2024, at 8:13 pm (Half Sun on the Grid)
  • May 30, 2024, at 8:12 pm (Full Sun on the Grid)
  • July 11, 2024, at 8:20 pm (Full Sun on the Grid)
  • July 12, 2024, at 8:21 pm (Half Sun on the Grid)

In 2024, “Reverse Manhattanhenge” will grace the skies on January 11th.

“Full Sun on the Grid” signifies the entire sun majestically positioned above the horizon, seemingly suspended amidst the skyscrapers, its radiant light bathing the city grid in a captivating glow. This moment is one of the event’s most enchanting and heavily photographed.

During “Half Sun Manhattanhenge,” only the upper half of the sun’s disk emerges above the horizon, while the lower half remains veiled behind the city’s skyline. The sun appears to rest atop the skyscrapers, imparting an illusion of it being nestled within the city’s silhouette. This juncture crafts a striking interplay of light and shadow, where the luminous upper half of the sun contrasts with the darkened contours of the buildings, heightening the overall dramatic effect.

Where to See Manhattanhenge?

The best places to see Manhattanhenge are 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd and 57th streets in Manhattan. These streets provide a direct view across the Hudson River to the west, allowing the effect to be seen in all its glory. If you want the widest view, it is best to go up to the Empire State or Chrysler Building.

Manhattanhenge Insider Tips

For the best experience:

  1. Arrive early to secure a prime viewing spot, as the streets tend to fill up quickly.
  2. Stay attentive to traffic and pedestrian signals for safety.
  3. Adjust your camera settings to accommodate the intense sunlight and resulting shadows. We suggest closing the aperture to f/11 and setting the shutter speed to 1/2500.
  4. Above all, allow yourself to sync with the city’s rhythm. Exercise patience and take moments to observe your surroundings – not just the sun but also the expressions on the faces of those sharing this extraordinary moment with you.

Watch Manhattanhenge (Videos From Previous Years)

If you’re still unsure about whether to travel to New York to witness the phenomenon, take a look at these videos for a preview. However, bear in mind that the spectacle will undoubtedly be even more inspiring when experienced in person.

Credits: Yosuke Kobayashi YouTube Channel
Credits: 4K WALK YouTube Channel

Deep Dive Into the Magic With Manhattanhenge

Manhattanhenge sunrise photo
People view a Manhattanhenge sunrise along 42nd street in New York’s Manhattan borough on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. Credit: AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura

Manhattanhenge isn’t just about watching sunset or sunrise through the lens of the urban jungle. This is a love story written in light and shadow, a reminder that we all live under the same sun and are part of something bigger than ourselves, something eternal and beautiful. And sometimes you need to stop the race and bustle to see it.

References & Additional Information:

  1. Manhattanhenge
  2. Here Comes Manhattanhenge!
  3. Astronomy Live: Celebrate Manhattanhenge
  4. Everything you need to know about the reverse Manhattanhenge on Thursday morning
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