It is not quite one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and there are no alien conspiracies surrounding it, but Manhattanhenge has become one of the most beautiful days of the year to be a New Yorker.
Dubbed Manhattanhenge by the inimitable Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Frederick P. Rose director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, the phenomenon is obviously named for the New York borough of Manhattan and the ancient stones in southern England that are collectively called Stonehenge.
Although Tyson can explain what makes Manhattanhenge happen, nothing can quite prepare you for your first experience of it, as the rays of the sun align with the skyscrapers of New York to create a beautiful display of natural light disrupted poetically by the sleek pillars of commerce.
Tyson describes Manhattanhenge -- aka the Manhattan solstice because it comes twice a year (May 29 and July 12 in 2012) -- nicely on the planetarium's website:
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 ... For these two days, as the Sun sets on the grid, half the disk sits above and half below the horizon. My personal preference for photographs. But the day after, May 30, and the day before, July 11, also offer Manhattanhenge moments, but, at sunset, you instead will find the entire ball of the Sun on the horizon.
All you need to experience Manhattanhenge for yourself this week is to first be in New York on Tuesday or Wednesday and then take a step out your door.
The best views are from the roofs of cross-street skyscrapers, whence it is easiest to see crosstown past the hustle and bustle of the city. But even from the street it is a beautiful sight to see the sun -- the source of all natural life -- cradled in the bosom of the heart of American civilization.
So grab a beer or iced tea and head up to the roof around 8:15 p.m. to soak in the majesty of Manhattanhenge. It's worth the effort.