Manhattanhenge. If you know what it is, you know it’s one of the most unique New York City experiences that mixes nature with the large, buzzing city. If you don’t know what it is, keep on reading.
Don’t worry, Manhattanhenge is not another phenomenon that will make you question if 2020 is the end of the world. This happens every year, but it will likely be a different experience for New Yorkers. Why so? There are no tourists crowding the streets to see this event due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The second Manhattanhenge experience of 2020 is just around the corner, with the first sunset event happening on Friday, May 29.
What is Manhattanhenge?
Manhattanhenge is an event that occurs four times per year when the sun and earth align perfectly with Manhattan’s constructed city grid to produce a sunset or sunrise like you have never seen before.
That’s right, Manhattanhenge occurs four times per year: twice as a sunrise, and twice as a sunset.
While the first sunset event is coming this Friday, the first sunrise event was on January 22. Another Manhattanhenge sunset event will take place on July 12.
Jackie Faherty, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History, calculates the exact dates and times the event will take place each year.
According to Faherty, the timing of the sunrise events are more difficult to calculate because the east side has a lot more interruptions than the New Jersey side to the west of Manhattan.
Manhattanhenge was not something planned by those who built New York City. Unlike the famous Stonehenge in England, Manhatthenge is completely accidental. Stonehenge was built to help people understand the time of year. When the sun shines through the center of the Stonehenge monument, it marks the summer solstice. On the other hand, the dates when Manhatthenge occurs are completely arbitrary.
“In the 1800s there was something called the ‘grid plan,’ and it came from the commissioner’s plan, where the tycoons of New York at the time made this decision that they would grid New York City,” Faherty told USA TODAY.
The term “Manhattanhenge” was first used by Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist, and director of the Hayden Planetarium. Tyson first used this term in 1997, but it became popularized in the early 2000s.
How can you view Manhattanhenge while practicing social distancing?
Over the past few months, major events have been canceled across the country in order to follow the social distancing rules put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.
That being said, you can’t cancel an astrological event. Manhattanhenge will happen whether people are there to see it or not, and this year, there will be a whole lot fewer people viewing it than usual.
“People plan their vacations around coming to NYC to see it,” Faherty told USA TODAY. “It’s insanely popular.”
As of right now, New York City remains on pause, with nonessential businesses keeping their workforces at home, nonessential gathering banned, public schools closed, and subway service suspended nightly from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. to disinfect trains and stations.
Those who are in Manhattan on Friday can best view the sunset event between 14th and 57th streets.
Those in New York who go to see the event should continue to follow the guidelines for safe behavior during the coronavirus pandemic. New York City has currently only accomplished four of the seven metrics that the state has required each region meet before they are allowed to reopen.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo is still asking residents to wash their hands, wear a mask, and practice social distancing.
“This is our responsibility to one another,” Cuomo wrote on Twitter.
Jennifer Fabiano is an SEO reporter at Ladders.