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"Manhattanhenge" goes down tonight at 8:16 p.m.


Photo by Dan Nguyen

Manhattanhenge, the biannual solar phenomenon (coined by my hero, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson), goes down this evening at 8:16P (ET). The setting sun will perfectly line up with Manhattan’s street grid and wow everyone (technically it started yesterday, but I don’t like to count it because it was only a partial view of the setting sun). This event typically means the streets will be crowded with amateur photographer snapping pictures with their iPhones and spamming their Instagram with the hashtag “#nofilter” (guilty!).

The name is an obvious play of England’s Stonehenge structure that people view so mystically, but deGrasse Tyson explains the Manhattan version hilariously (okay, maybe I’m the only geek that finds it funny) by pointing out we might be completely wrong about our theories on Stonehenge.

What will future civilizations think of Manhattan Island when they dig it up and find a carefully laid out network of streets and avenues? Surely the grid would be presumed to have astronomical significance, just as we have found for the pre-historic circle of large vertical rocks known as Stonehenge, in the Salisbury Plain of England. For Stonehenge, the special day is the summer solstice, when the Sun rises in perfect alignment with several of the stones, signaling the change of season. For Manhattan, a place where evening matters more than morning, that special day comes twice a year… 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.

Here’s a segment from NOVA of deGrasse Tyson explaining this cosmic phenomenon happening in an urban setting:

Let’s hope Mother Nature cooperates and pushes away the grey clouds before sunset!