NEW YORK – New Yorkers don’t stop for much, but around 8 p.m. Tuesday night, hundreds slowed down at street corners and gazed west, hoping for a glimpse of a celestial event known as “Manhattanhenge.”
Twice a year, the setting sun aligns with the city’s grid, shooting beams of light down all the cross-streets. Manhattan’s skyscrapers frame the sun as it slides below the horizon.
This year, Manhattanhenge occurs on May 29 and 30 and July 11 and 12.
Physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson named the phenomenon after Stonehenge, the prehistoric circle of rocks in the UK that lines up with the sunrise on the summer solstice. His tips for Manhattanhenge viewing are on the Hayden Planetarium's website:
For best effect, position yourself as far east in Manhattan as possible. But ensure that when you look west across the avenues you can still see New Jersey. Clear cross streets include 14th, 23rd, 34th. 42nd, 57th and several streets adjacent to them.
Carol Price and Steve Kent were among the roughly 150 people who gathered at East 34th Street and Park Avenue on Tuesday evening for a view west that included the Empire State Building.
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“This is my fifth Manhattanhenge,” Price said. Is the sunset that spectacular? “Well, I live right here,” she said, pointing at an apartment building on the corner. “But I do mark the day on my calendar each year because I don’t want to miss it.”
Science geeks seemed to be outnumbered by photography enthusiasts, who planted their tripods on the sidewalk or, like Melissa Mansur, darted into the crosswalk to take shots from the middle of the street when the “Walk” signal flashed.
“I just moved here from San Francisco," Mansur said, "and I heard about it, so I wanted to try and get the shot."
Unfortunately, storm clouds blew into New Jersey just before sundown, blocking any sight of the setting sun and thwarting photographers. But sunset-chasers will have another chance to view Manhattanhenge tonight at 8:16 p.m.
If you go tonight, take a photo of the sunset and send it to us on Twitter @GlobalPost or as a Facebook message. We'll publish the best ones.