July 14th, 2009

Manhattanhenge and Montrealhenge

Posted in Canada, Environment, United States by Christopher DeWolf


Photo by Arianys León

Twice a year, a few weeks before and after the summer solstice, the setting sun aligns perfectly with the east-west axis of Manhattan’s streets in a phenomenon that has been dubbed “Manhattanhenge,” a reference to the way the sun aligns with Stonehenge during the solstices. It got quite a bit of attention this year, especially around its first instance, on June 1st. Sunday marked its second occurrence and there are Flickr photos to prove it.

Even though Manhattanhenge has been rather grandiosely described as a “unique phenomenon in the world, if not the universe,” it is replicated to some extent in other cities. Last month, Spacing Montreal’s Émile Thomas speculated that Montrealhenge might happen each year on June 12th. But the same effect is achieved almost every day: one of the things I miss most about Montreal is the way the sun sets in alignment with the city’s north-south streets, such as Park Avenue or St. Laurent, which pierces them with long bands of evening light. I would often walk up Park just as the sun was setting, admiring the long shadows and pillowy softness of the light.


Photo by Émile Thomas

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  1. Michel says:

    I’ve also noticed that, on Papineau near Bellechasse (or Jean-Talon), there’s a church with a glass cross built into the tower. When the sun sets ‘henge-style, the cross lights up brilliantly.
    It’s rather spectacular.

    July 14th, 2009 at 9:55 am

  2. Christopher DeWolf says:

    Glass cross? That’s unusual. Sounds like the architect realized the sun would be setting right behind it.

    July 14th, 2009 at 10:33 pm

  3. Ian Woo says:

    I noticed this effect in the last few weeks too (as summer began) – the sun would appear to set “on” my new street of residence, St Urbain. Of course, that’s parallel to St Laurent too. A handful of the main streets that are not cut off east-west get this effect, and it paints all of the buildings a golden hue at sunset.

    July 17th, 2009 at 10:34 am

  4. john says:

    The sun sets in a slightly different place on the horizon every night – how can the alignment happen only on June 12 and also “almost every day”, as you claim?

    January 12th, 2010 at 6:51 am

  5. Christopher DeWolf says:

    I didn’t say the alignment happens every day, I said that the same effect is achieved every day. Maybe “similar effect” would have been more precise.

    January 12th, 2010 at 7:58 am

  6. Mike says:

    It’s happening right now!!!


    July 11th, 2011 at 5:35 pm