How Neil deGrasse Tyson Discovered Manhattanhenge

Neil deGrasse Tyson tells us a story about a teenage trip to study stone monuments and how that led to the discovery of Manhattanhenge.

Burger Week aside, there are few more exciting prospects for urban Instagrammers than Manhattanhenge.


The phenomenon is described on the Hayden Planetarium web site as: “a special day (that) comes twice a year, when the setting Sun aligns precisely with the Manhattan street grid, creating a radiant glow of light across Manhattan’s brick and steel canyons, simultaneously illuminating both the north and south sides of every cross street of the borough’s grid.”

The person who wrote that description, Neil deGrasse Tyson, knows from celestial events–he’s an astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium and all. But his expertise on this topic goes much deeper than that, if you can believe it. See, Tyson is the person who “discovered” and named Manhattanhenge.

We spoke with Tyson recently at his office at the Planetarium about his new NatGeo show, StarTalk (and about brains and creativity and Jon Stewart–please check out the conversation here).

He also told us a Creation Story about that time he invented Manhattanhenge. It all started when he was 15 years old and earned a scholarship from The Explorers Club to go on an expedition to study stone monuments. And then, well, the guy tells a good story so we’ll let him take it from there.

And if you want to see Manhattanhenge for yourself, below are the best times.

Half Sun on the Grid
Friday, May 29 8:12 P.M. EDT
Monday, July 13 8:21 P.M. EDT
Full Sun on the Grid
Saturday, May 30 8:12 P.M. EDT
Sunday, July 12 8:20 P.M. EDT


About the author

Teressa Iezzi is the editor of Co.Create. She was previously the editor of Advertising Age’s Creativity, covering all things creative in the brand world


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