A Confluence of Architecture and Astronomy

My birthday this year fell on Manhattanhenge. For those who are not familiar with this local holiday, it’s when the point of sunset matches the 29-degrees-off-of-true East-West axis of Manhattan’s streets (not the avenues—those run 29-degrees off of North-South). This sounds like no big deal, but it is actually pretty cool. The sun doesn’t appear in the concrete canyons until just before it falls below the horizon (since it’s arcing over), and then it slides perfectly into place for one golden moment that lights up all the grid-streets, blinds all westward drivers, and sends shadows racing across the entire island.

This came at the end of a long hot bike ride (I’ll tell you more about that later), so I really wanted to just put my feet up and drink anything that would go well with ice, but instead I grabbed my camera and headed into the city to document the phenomenon (which I’d heard about, but never before witnessed). When the heavens align for your birthday, the least you can do is witness the event, right?

I wasn’t totally sure it was really going to happen (the sun was blocked by the buildings of Midtown until just before sunset), and I wasn’t sure it would be that cool. But it was! There’s something so satisfying about astronomical phenomena, and when astronomy and architecture conspire to create a spectacle, well, how cool is that? I doubt I’ll ever hang with the Druids at Stonehenge on a solstice, but I don’t need to—Manhattanhenge is just as cool to me. And a little more convenient.



This entry was posted on Monday, May 31st, 2010 and is filed under architecture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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