Known for Central Park, the Empire State Building, Broadway and the Rockefeller Center, the borough of Manhattan in New York City has a life of its own. Even more uniquely, however, it has its own "solstices." Four times a year, the sun perfectly aligns with the city's street grid, east to west and north to south, producing a phenomenon known today as Manhattanhenge. This happens twice in the summer during the setting sun and twice in the winter during the rising sun. The first occurrence this year was on May 29, and, Friday, July 12, will be the second appearance.
This picturesque sunset is caused by the city's grid layout with its cross streets set up east to west and the Earth's rotation.
"The setting sun sets behind to the west, perfectly aligned with the street grid of New York City enough so we get not one, but two shots of the sun, said Dave Brody, Science Writer for Space.com. "When that happens all that beautiful golden sunlight bounces," creating a few moments of magic through the streets of the bustling Big Apple.
The sun sets along 42nd Street in Manhattan during an annual phenomenon known as "Manhattanhenge," when the sun aligns perfectly with the city's transit grid, Wednesday, May 29, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
This year's full Manhattanhenge is this Friday, July 12, at 8:23 p.m. and the half sunset can be seen the following day on Saturday, July 13, at 8:24 p.m.
Unlike the winter sunrise, the summer sunset "gives a view straight across the city with the rivers on either side, the water giving a clear view to the sunset," American Museum of Natural History Astrophysicist, Jackie Faherty told AccuWeather.com.
Manhattanhenge got its name from Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument in England which displays a similar happening when once a year the sun rises in perfect alignment with the stones. Manhattanhenge gained popularity in 2002, thanks to astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, who coined the term in 2001.
Other cities in the United States and Canada also observe their own solstice including Chicago, Baltimore, Toronto and Montreal. However, New York City is one of a kind due to the Hudson River and low cliffs of New Jersey which help set the perfect scene. New York City's famous buildings act as pillars to frame the setting sun, giving the ultimate opportunity for the photo of a lifetime.
Typically, crowds accumulate on the most obvious streets in the city, such as 23rd and 42nd, in an attempt to catch a shot of the action. Due to the city setup for the perfect view of the sunset, one must stand in the middle of the street, dangerous in and of itself in the Big Apple. Faherty explains that one-way streets may be the best option to avoid the crowds and enjoy the view.
"Find your favorite building, avoid well-known iconic buildings and try one-ways where there is not a lot of heavy traffic," said Faherty.
For a great view of a perfect New York City summer sunset, head outside on Friday or Saturday night around 8 p.m. If you cannot make it out on those days, watch the sunset earlier in the week for a small preview of Manhattanhenge magic. To snap the perfect photo, see the tips below from Professional Photographer and Owner of Caralee Rose Photography, Caralee Heller.
How to photograph Manhattanhenge:
1. The best location:
- Avoid traffic and crowds of people.
- Know the times for the actual sunset and get there at least 30 minutes prior to setup.
- Scope out a location ahead of time so you know how to get there, don't worry and don't miss the event.
2. What lens to use for what you want to capture:
- If you want the whole scene with the buildings and the city, go with a wide-angle, such as a 24-50mm or even as low as a 16-33mm.
- For just the sun, use a tighter crop, maybe the telephoto lens, between 200-600mm.
- Want the city traffic and the buildings? Use 200-400 mm.
3. The proper exposure setting:
- Use the manual setting, set your ISO to 200-400, so you won't need a tripod.
- Don't point the light meter into the sun.
- Bracket your exposure by shooting one full stop lighter and one darker than the light meter exposure.