"Manhattanhenge" Gets Clouded Out

By Jillian Scharr and Hasani Gittens
|  Monday, Jul 12, 2010  |  Updated 9:44 PM EDT
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Gawkers hope for a glimpse of the sunset on 42nd Street.

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It was supposed to be beautiful, brilliant. Instead it was, well, gray.

As sunset neared Monday, people throughout Manhattan eagerly awaited the phenomenon known as "Manhattanhenge," where the setting sun is perfectly aligned with the island's cross streets. 

But Mother Nature wasn't cooperating with this modern-day rite. Clouds obscured the setting sun and left many disappointed.

The event is named after England's famous Stonehenge, whose stone arches frame the sun on the Summer Solstice. 

Because Manhattan's grid is rotated 30 degrees east from geographic north, Manhattan's solar alignment occurs on two dates approximately 22 days before and after the Solstice.

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, of the American Museum of Natural History, coined the term in 2002 when he wrote an article for the Natural History Magazine on Manhattanhenge.

"What will future civilizations think of Manhattan Island when they dig it up and find its carefully laid-out network of streets and avenues? Surely they will presume the grid had astronomical significance," Tyson wrote.

"Upon studying American culture and what is important to it, future anthropologists might take the Manhattan alignments to be cosmic signs of Memorial Day and, of course, baseball’s All-Star break."

Other cities with square grids have their day to shine, too.  "Torontohenge" occurs on approximately October 25 and Feb 16, and
"Chicagohenge" on September 25.

Sunset in Manhattan was at 8:28 p.m. on Monday.

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