Historical & Current Events dictionary


[ man-hat-n-henj ]

What is Manhattanhenge?

Manhattanhenge is a name for a phenomenon in which the setting sun aligns with the east–west streets of Manhattan in New York City, similar to how it sets between the stones of Stonehenge

This phenomenon occurs four times a year: twice before the summer solstice and twice after. During Manhattanhenge, the sun can be seen centered between the buildings of Manhattan as it sets. 

Typically, the term Manhattanhenge refers specifically to the setting-sun version of the phenomenon, which occurs some time before and after the northern hemisphere’s summer solstice (occurring around June 21). The less popular rising-sun version, which occurs around the winter solstice (around December 21), is often referred to as reverse Manhattanhenge

🗓 When is Manhattanhenge?

The dates of Manhattanhenge change every year, but it typically occurs two times in the weeks before the summer solstice and two times in the weeks after. In 2024, the dates of Manhattanhenge are likely to be May 29, May 30, July 11, and July 12.

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Where does Manhattanhenge come from?

manhattan street

The name Manhattanhenge was coined by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who first noted the phenomenon in a 1997 issue of Natural History magazine. Tyson has used the name Manhattanhenge to refer to the event since at least 2002. 

According to Tyson, the name Manhattanhenge was inspired by Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument located in England that is believed to have been used for solar observation. At certain points in the year, the sun is aligned between the stones of Stonehenge as it sets. In his youth, Tyson visited similar stone monuments and wondered if he could find a similar phenomenon in New York City. Because he successfully found what he was looking for in the Manhattan borough, Tyson named his discovery Manhattanhenge.

Examples of Manhattanhenge

Today is Manhattanhenge, the day when New Yorkers bravely get mowed down by crosstown traffic in the pursuit of the perfect Instagram post
@notalogin, July 12, 2018
Manhattanhenge is only visible four times a year, typically in the spring and the summer. Monday was the last chance to see the full sun in between buildings, and people flocked the streets of New York City to get a glimpse and capture the phenomenon on their phones. 
Jordan Mendoza, USA Today, July 2022

Who uses Manhattanhenge?

The phenomenon known as Manhattanhenge is not widely known, but awareness of it grows year after year. Those who observe the event often capture pictures of the sun setting in between buildings. 

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This is not meant to be a formal definition of Manhattanhenge like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of Manhattanhenge that will help our users expand their word mastery.