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Expert Tips for Viewing Sunrise Manhattanhenge

by AMNH on

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Each year, twice a year, New Yorkers are treated to a phenomenon called Manhattanhenge, when the city’s street grid aligns with the setting Sun almost perfectly. But at this time of year, Manhattan’s concrete canyons are due to frame the Sun’s rise, for an early morning version of Manhattanhenge you won’t want to miss.

Sun shines at street level between tall office buildings.
A view of sunrise Manhattanhenge from 42nd Street and Grand Central Station on January 4, 2014, at 7:30 am. 
© B. Levine

According to Museum Senior Scientist Jackie Faherty, the best spots to view the sunrise Manhattanhenge will be on 34th Street or 42nd Street, looking east toward Long Island City’s Gantry Plaza State Park. But make sure you’re set up to take photos by the time the Sun moves into alignment each morning. 

Want to make sure you get an epic photograph? “The cliff face topography of Queens, Bronx, and Brooklyn means that if you want the sunrise picture, you need to get a clear view across the river,” says Faherty. “Use Google Maps to scout out a location where the river looks wide, the buildings are low, and the landscape is close to the horizon.”

Lighting conditions will be intense, so Faherty advises against using the Sun as a light meter. “Balancing somewhere between the street and the Sun is usually aesthetically pleasing.”

While Manhattanhenge is a spectacular sight, always keep in mind that looking directly at the Sun is dangerous, even though the light that occurs during sunrise and sunset is safer to view than at other points in the day. “Sunrise and sunset times are when the Sun is just on or above the horizon. At that level, the light from the Sun has to travel through a lot of atmosphere in order to get to you, so much of its intensity is diffused,” she says. Still, looking directly at the sun is unsafe, so use solar filters if you have them.