Lonely Planet Writer

How and when to see New York’s Manhattanhenge in 2018

While the ancient allure of England’s Stonehenge draws crowds each summer solstice, some annual phenomena in other parts of the world manage to amaze without as much mystery. Take Manhattanhenge for example. The yearly event occurs when the setting sun aligns perfectly with the New York City’s downtown street grid, creating a glowing urban spectacle that delights both locals and tourists.

The sun appears along 42nd Street during a ‘Manhattanhenge’ in New York City. Image by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

Stonehenge aligns with the sun at the summer solstice – implying a mysterious connection to the changing of the seasons. Manhattanhenge has a more coincidental connection to the skies, as the sun lines with the city’s grid once in May and once in July, but it still makes for an incredible and ephemeral show.

This year, Manhattanhenge will be on view on Wednesday, 30 May at 8:12 pm and Thursday, 12 July 8:20 pm. If neither of those days suit your travel schedule, then there is a chance to see half the sun match the grid on Tuesday, 29 May at 8:13 pm and Friday, 13 July at 8:21 pm.

The sunset is seen from 42nd St during Manhattanhenge. Image by Vanessa Carvalho/Brazil Photo Press/LatinContent/Getty Images

The term “Manhattanhenge” was coined by the celebrity astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who is also the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. The planetarium will also host a special presentation on 12 July with astrophysicist Jacqueline Faherty, senior scientist in the Department of Astrophysics at the AMNH, who will explore the phenomenon at the planetarium at 7 pm.

Faherty also shared with Lonely Planet some advice for anyone who wants to see it for themselves: “You have to be on the grid of Manhattan to see the event. It is all about the angle. If you go off the grid by even a degree you will be out of alignment. I happen to be the person that calculates the exact date and time each year that will be suitable for the ‘grid kiss’ — that’s what I like to call what the sun does as it sets in alignment. I have to be very careful of the exact time and angle that the sun is at since it can impact the visibility. I will say that you can watch from beyond the grid, in Brooklyn for instance. As long as you can see all the way across Manhattan to New Jersey, you will catch the event.” She notes that the best streets for viewing are 14th, 23rd, 42nd, 72nd, 79th. You’ll also need a clear view of New Jersey, and clear skies, though there is little anyone can do to control that part.

If you want to hear more from Faherty, the 12 July presentation will explain why Manhattanhenge happens, visitors will get a simulation of the event in the Hayden Planetarium dome and will then be invited to lay out in the street and watch the sunset.

You can also find out more on her website, or get fun facts by following her on Twitter @jfaherty.