New Yorkers braved the cold early Wednesday morning to catch a glimpse of winter’s version of Manhattanhenge.
The term Manhattanhenge, coined by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson in 2002, describes the phenomenon when ‘when the setting sun aligns precisely with the Manhattan street grid, creating a radiant glow of light across Manhattan’s brick and steel canyons, simultaneously illuminating both the north and south sides of every cross street of the borough’s grid.’
Usually a big summer event in the metropolis, Manhattanhenge typically refers to instances in May and July when the sun sets in line with the city’s east-to-west grid, causing the sun to appear like a glowing orb through cracks between high rises and skyscrapers.
However, during the phenomenon’s lesser known counterpart in the winter, seen in January and November, instead of seeing special sunsets to the the west, people in the Big Apple and parts of New Jersey had the opportunity Wednesday to watch two breathtaking sunrises in the east.
New Yorkers braved the cold early Wednesday morning to catch a glimpse of winter’s version of Manhattanhenge
Usually a big summer event in the metropolis, Manhattanhenge typically refers to instances in May and July when the sun sets in line with the city’s east-to-west grid, causing the sun to appear like a glowing orb through cracks of towering buildings
Dubbed ‘Reverse Manhattanhenge,’ the lesser known version of the scenic event typically takes a backseat to its summer equivalent, in part because fewer people are outdoors on cold January mornings, and because fewer people are awake during sunrise than at sunset.
But in a testament to the term The City That Never Sleeps, New Yorkers flocked to vantage points situated across the concrete jungle Wednesday to get a look at the annual occurrence, despite below-freezing temperatures.
Revelers were in turn rewarded for their steadfastness shortly after 7am January 12 with an obscured view of the event that saw the sun perfectly align with the city’s skyline, made possible by a clear, cloudless sky.
The scenic quality of the occurrence stems from the fact that the streets of Manhattan are laid out in a grid pattern that is offset 28.9 degrees from true east-west.
Had the grid been set directly on the east-west line, the phenomenon would coincide with the spring and autumn equinoxes, just like Stonehenge in England – hence the name.
The event, which occurred shortly after 7 am ET on January 12, saw the sunrise align perfectly with the city’s skyline
The scenic quality of the occurrence stems from the fact that the streets of Manhattan are laid out in a grid pattern that is offset 28.9 degrees from true east-west
The positioning of the city’s grid pattern allows for four such sunrises and sunsets each year
Revelers who braved to cold were rewarded for their steadfastness with an obscured view of the event, made possible by a clear, almost cloudless sky
The sunrise Wednesday, as seen from a vantage point over Manhattan’s 42nd street. Lucky commuters found themselves bathed in a scenic shade of orange from the sun’s emerging rays
A view of the phenomenon obscured by the city’s skyline from across the Hudson River, in New Jersey. To view the winter Manhattanhenge, also known as ‘Reverse Manhattanhenge’ one must look west to east, instead of east to west in the summers
DeGrasse Tyson explains: ‘In spite of what pop-culture tells you, the sun rises due east and sets due west only twice per year on the equinoxes – the first day of spring and of autumn. Every other day, the sun rises and sets elsewhere on the horizon.
‘Had Manhattan’s grid been perfectly aligned with the geographic north-south line, then the days of Manhattanhenge would coincide with the equinoxes. But Manhattan’s street grid is rotated 30 degrees east from geographic north, shifting the days of alignment elsewhere into the calendar.’
The resulting view, when combined with the tall buildings that of course line the city’s streets, creates a vertical channel to frame the sun – and thus a rare and striking photographic opportunity.
And New Yorkers pounced on the fleeting opportunity Wednesday morning, as thousands of sun worshippers steadfastly waited out the waning darkness as dawn – and the sun – started to break over the city’s skyline, looking east across the avenues.
They were rewarded for their efforts with a beautifully lit up skyline and blossoming sun – which many stopped to photograph.
Meanwhile, those less disposed to frigid winter-morning temperatures can look forward to this summer’s version of Manhattanhenge, slated to occur this year on May 29.