'Manhattanhenge' phenomenon: Sun sets on New York's iconic skyline 

The event takes its name from its Sommerset counterpart

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The Independent Online

Tourists taking well-timed summer breaks and New Yorkers alike enjoyed a rare celestial treat over the weekend, as the sunset aligned with the iconic skycrapers of the city's skyline.

Known as the Manhattenhenge, the phenomenon owes its name to Stonehenge in Somerset, where druids flock to watch the sun rise in perfect alignment with the neolithic pillars during the spring equinox.

As the New York district sits around 30 degrees east from due north, Manhattanhenge sees the sun align precisely with the district's carefully planned street grid, but falls on 29 May and 12 July instead of the spring and autumn equinoxes.

While on 11 July the sun appears in the sky as a striking, glowing ball, the true Manhattenhenge event sees the sun sit above the horizon as half a disk, illuminating the buildings lining the east-west streets.

Unfortunately, this year the 8:25pm ET sunset was obstructed by clouds.

Even so, crowds armed with cameras flocked nearby the iconic Empire State and Chrysler buildings on 34th and 42nd street, in an attempt to capture the perfect shot. Views from 14th, 23rd, 57th, and several streets adjacent to them also offer stunning views.

Popular US astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium, Neil de Grasse Tyson, coined the term Manhattanhenge in 1996.

In his explanation of phenomenon, Tyson jokes that academics of the future will link the celestial event with Memorial Day (26 May) Baseball's All Star Day (16 July), in the same way modern-day archaeologists mark a significance between Stonehenge and the Summer Solstice.

“Future anthropologists might conclude that, via the Sun, the people who called themselves Americans worshiped War and Baseball,” quipped Tyson.