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Have you heard about Manhattanhenge?

Manhattanhenge – sometimes referred to as the Manhattan Solstice – is a circumstance which occurs twice a year, during which the setting sun aligns with the east–west streets of the main street grid in the borough of Manhattan in New York City. The neologism is derived from Stonehenge, where the sun aligns with the stones on the solstices with a similarly dramatic effect. The word was popularized in 2002 by Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History.

Neil deGrasse Tyson gives more details on the website of the American Museum of Natural History:

For 2013 they fall on May 28th, and July 13th, 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. (…)
For these two days, as the Sun sets on the grid, half the disk sits above and half below the horizon. My personal preference for photographs. But the day after, May 29th, and the day before, July 12, also offer Manhattanhenge moments, but at sunset, you instead will find the entire ball of the Sun on the horizon.

The first time I heard about it was last year and it was too late to join the fun. I did join the fun yesterday (the day before, it was raining).

Well, my dear readers, don’t expect to see gorgeous pictures below, for a number of reasons: 1) I probably should have done some testing with my camera before, because I rarely take pictures of sunsets; 2) I arrived at 7 pm for the 8.15 pm show, and it was a bit late to find some valuable room left at the best spot for pictures from 42nd St (check first picture below); 3) there were many people in the streets trying to take a pic with anything from iPad to iPhone to real camera, hence the importance of 2).

As mentioned, I had chosen 42nd St because I wanted to have the Chrysler Building in the picture… which it is not, because I had to get in front of the crowd to have a potentially decent picture (meaning not with dozens of people on the picture).

Then, there was the traffic. Everyone who’s been to New York knows that honking may be forbidden, it more or less looks like the local sport in Manhattan, not to mention that taxi drivers are – how to put it nicely? – a little impatient. So when dozens of people stand in the middle of the street to take pics of the sunset, it’s a honking concert that you witness :-)

Next time is in July and if I can join the fun, I’ll try to prepare a little bit more! In the meantime, here are some pics of the crowd and the sun.

The crowd

What would have been a perfect spot, was already too crowded at 7 pm (trees on each side of the street were blocking the view)…

…and was not an option anymore at 7.45 pm.

Starting at around 7.45 pm, everyone started to try and test their camera by taking pictures of the view, the crowd growing little by little. It was kind of funny, although not for cars ;-)

All these pictures were taken before the right moment.

The sun

And here are my ridiculously bad pictures of the sun. I even had to slightly alter them with Photoshop. Sigh. Next time will be better!

[click on the pics for a bigger view]

In any case, it is an event not to be missed if you are in New York City when it happens and have the leisure to wait for it. The show is wonderful!

And here is probably my favorite picture from yesterday, taken at the end:

[click on the pic for a bigger view]

Did I mention I love New York?