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Manhattanhenge 2017: Clouds may ruin stunning sunset display

New Yorkers hoping to snap the year’s most mesmerizing sunset photos may need to brace for clouds thwarting views of the phenomenon known as Manhattanhenge.

On Memorial Day and May 30, 2017, thousands are expected to flood Manhattan’s streets to view the striking astronomical sight, which occurs on four evenings each year.

Coined by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Manhattanhenge happens when the setting sun aligns perfectly with the borough’s street grid.


The aligned sun can be seen on New York City's 42nd Street during Manhattanhenge. (Photo/Getty Images)

The towering buildings that line each of the grid’s east- and westward roads become bathed in an illuminating glow, according to the American Museum of Natural History.

Manhattanhenge’s name is derived from England’s famous Stonehenge, where the sun aligns perfectly with several of the prehistoric stones during June’s summer solstice.

On May 29, 2017, spectators can catch a glimpse of the half sun on Manhattan’s grid at 8:13 p.m. EDT.

The full sun will appear on the grid on May 30 at 8:12 p.m. EDT.

There are no guarantees for clear viewing on both days because there is the potential for either partial or total cloud cover, said AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams.

“We’re talking about something that requires the sun to be out, but we’re talking about just a very narrow window of time,” Abrams said.

“It’s reasonable that there will be a chance to see it, but all it takes is one cloud at the right moment to ruin it,” he said.

For the best views, observers are encouraged to find the easternmost position in the borough while ensuring that New Jersey is still visible when looking west, according to deGrasse Tyson's blog.

Clear cross streets for Manhattanhenge viewing include 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd and 57th streets, wrote deGrasse Tyson.

Whether it's cloudy or not, it’s important to take proper precautions to protect your vision while viewing the sunset.

Those planning to view Manhattanhenge should keep in mind never to look directly at the sun, even during sunrise or sunset.

“Although the heat energy from the sun may decrease as it gets closer to the horizon, the [ultraviolet] and harmful blue light rays actually become more level with one's eyes when the sun is rising or setting,” said Dr. Janelle Routhier, an optometrist at Essilor of America.

Routhier advised that observers view the sunset while wearing 98 to 100 percent UV sun lenses, even when taking quick photos with a smartphone or camera.

Those using professional cameras can use special sun filters to photograph the sun safely, Routhier said.

Spectators can enjoy the final Manhattanhenge occurrences of 2017 on July 12 and 13.