Full Sun’s Light Leaves Onlookers Half-Satisfied

Blue skies and a cloudy horizon “faked out” Manhattanhenge viewers, says one photographer

| 01 Jun 2022 | 12:59

Between the clear sky overhead and the holiday weekend timing, the year’s Manhattanhenge conditions seemed to line up as magnetically as the sun and the grid.

As the sunset began on Monday evening, city-goers flooded into the streets to capture their picture-perfect moments. But as the day’s light dwindled, clouds fogged along the horizon, hindering sight of the sun’s descent. New Yorkers were left wanting for the golden glow that bathes the city in sunshine, the effect which makes Manhattanhenge both a celestial and a social media event.

Not all is lost, though. Dr. Jackie Faherty, an astrophysicist from the American Museum of Natural History, explains that marvelous alignment of the sunset and the east-west-crossing city streets happens four times a year, in a pair of days symmetrically placed on either side of the summer solstice. The next Manhattanhenge will be on July 11 and 12.

Each Manhattanhenge duo features a “half sun” day and a “full sun” day. The former sees the midpoint of the sun intersecting with the city grid, says Faherty, while the latter “is when the bottom of the sun is right at the grid position before it falls below the horizon.” The effect is meant shoot light down each horizontal street, “illuminating the canyon of New York City.”

“It Wasn’t Clean”

This week, the sun’s “full” beams stayed tied to the west side, gently coloring the skies above like any other sunset. Clouds muddled the view and intercepted the rays.

“It wasn’t clean,” says photographer Craig Fruchtman (@craigsbeds on Instagram). “The weather has to be right. There can’t be any real clouds.”

Fruchtman joined many other professional photographers on the 42nd Street overpass in Tudor City. A “clean” Manhattanhenge sunset should send enough light to reach their East Side cameras.

“It could be like a starburst, which is created from the lens itself,” Fruchtman explains of the light’s effect on a camera. “The iris of the lens will cause it to split up depending on the aperture.”

Fruchtman started shooting Manhattanhenge in 2016, but he says he only caught the quintessential picture of the event’s “full sun” light once, in 2019. That said, his recent shots received over 5,500 likes on Instagram. Fruchtman’s posts show the faint glow of the sun behind a line of clouds, and the masses of people with raised phones lining the road.

Whether the sun shines or shies during its debutant moment, the eastern-facing view is always a sight to behold. The event draws a mixed bag of Manhattanites — tourists, locals, students of physics, students of photography — all hoping for good weather, bright light and a clear angle.