The giant towers of Manhattan are -- for the most part -- aligned on a grid. But it's not a true north-south-east-west grid. There's a 30-degree tilt to the east, which sometimes gives people who rely on their internal compass a sense of disorientation.
So twice a year, the city gets to experience "Manhattanhenge," that perfect day where the sun sets in perfect alignment with the street grid. This year's event will take place this evening at 8:17 p.m., and again on July 12. Credit for the "discovery" of Manhattanhenge goes to a guy working just up the street from me, Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium in the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History.
Says Tyson on the museum's website:
“For Manhattan, a place where evening matters more than morning, that special day comes twice a year. For 2011 they fall on May 30th, and July 12th, 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. A rare and beautiful sight. These two days happen to correspond with Memorial Day and Baseball’s All Star break. Future anthropologists might conclude that, via the Sun, the people who called themselves Americans worshiped War and Baseball.”
No word on if any human sacrifices are scheduled, but hey, it's New York so it's quite possible.
Picture credit: Manhattanhenge from 34th Street. Amy Langfield/NewYorkology.