About 4.6 billion years ago (give or take) our sun was formed as the center of our solar system. Shortly after (about 4.5 billion years ago) the earth was formed. Earth’s axis of rotation tilts in respect to its orbital plane. While it defines the seasons change for the Northern and Southern hemispheres no one understood the true significance of the developments at the time.
In 1811 New York City (then primarily the island of Manhattan) instituted the Commissioner’s Plan to create a grid of streets and avenues above Houston Street to facilitate commerce and order as the population marched northward. At the time no one understood the true significance of this gridiron.
Early in the 20th century New York started growing skyward with skyscrapers made possible by steel framework construction and the invention of a practical elevator (thank you, Mr. Otis). These buildings created concrete canyons lining the streets of Manhattan. The true significance was, again, unknown to those of the time.
Early in the 21st Century the brilliant astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson popularized the concept of Manhattanhenge which brings together the sun, the Commissioner’s Plan and our glorious buildings to frame good old sol perfectly aligned at either sunset or sunrise on our island. Because, really, the true significance of everything is how it impacts Manhattan.
This happens four times per year based on that seasonal tilting of good old earth in respect to its orbital plane. Want to see it? Take a look at sunset for July 12.
Since Good Old Neil defined Manhattanhenge for us (based on Stonehenge in Jolly Olde England) he must now solve the interminable honking as clueless amateur photographers gravitate toward all the side streets during these times to frame the perfect pic. I’m confident he can as he is an all around smart guy.
TOMORROW: A Nutty National Day