Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, was the first to use the term “Manhattanhenge.” While exploring the city’s astrological phenomena in his 2002 book City of Stars: A New Yorker’s Guide to the Cosmos, he wrote that the event occurs 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….As the Sun sets on the grid, half the disk sits above and half below the horizon.
In its article “Stonehenge in the City” (May 21, 2006), The New York Times referred to the event as the “Manhattan Solstice,” but Tyson clarified the reason for his choice of word in a post on amnh.org:
Of course the word solstice translates from the Latin solstitium, meaning stopped sun, in reference to the winter and summer solstices where the Sun’s daily arc across the sky reaches its extreme southerly and northerly limits. Manhattanhenge, however, comes about because the Sun’s arc has not yet reached these limits, and is on route to them, as we catch a brief glimpse of the setting Sun along the canyons of our narrow streets.
Recently, you could have seen the half sun clearly setting this way on May 29th or the full sun setting on May 30th. Ever late to the party, I took this shot from the corner of 5th Avenue and 55th Street on June 7th.