Bostonhenge

New Yorkers want to own everything. Even the sunset once in a while: you may have heard of the phenomenon known as Manhattanhenge, when the setting sun aligns with Manhattan cross streets. It occurs twice a year—really four times if you count the rising sun, which is apparently too early for anyone to be in the mood to talk about.

Here in Boston, like most everywhere else in the country outside New York, we’re at the disadvantage of not having the insane skyscraper street canyons that make Manhattanhenge remarkable. But perhaps our lack of any overall street system makes up for it; Manhattan gets only a couple of days each year, while the sun rises and sets over different streets on a number of dates here.

Boston November sunset

For one thing we have MIThenge, when the sunset aligns with MIT’s Infinite Corridor. A phenomenon involving the sun’s reflection on the Hancock tower has also been noted.

As for streets, well, our straight streets don’t tend to be very long, but here’s a map of a few of those that theoretically offer views of the sunrise or sunset. (Click it for bigger, better size.)

Bostonhenge

This map is only based on geometry and a sunrise/sunset calculator, so it’s no guarantee of a good show, but these streets and others may be worth checking out on the right days. I think something fun could be done with “Commhenge” and the Prudential observation deck—as you may have noticed, the street points right at the Pru. You may know some other good streets from your own experience, so please share!

Go watch those sunrises and sunsets, Boston. Life is short; enjoy the colors!

Boston streets analemma

Tim said there should be a cool analemma infographic. I’m not sure I succeeded here, so let’s hope he’ll come to the rescue.

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10 Responses to Bostonhenge

  1. Hillary says:

    At this time of year, the afternoon sun hits the Hancock tower and reflects blindingly into my office window. It’s very easy to see the shift towards and past the shortest day of the year by noting the time this happens – at the lowest point, the phenomenon happens at about 3:00 pm. As of yesterday it was already back to about 3:20 pm.

    • There must be some crazy geography to the blinding reflections of the Hancock tower over the course of a year. Our big shiny sundial. Hope you haven’t lost your vision yet, anyway!

  2. 20tauri says:

    Huronhenge – sunset down the center of Huron Avenue in Cambridge – happens twice a year. In the fall it’s Oct 5. Don’t know the spring date yet, but I’ll report back in a couple of months :)

  3. Dave Levy says:

    I always liked to talk about PikeHenge, which hits not too far off the equinox.

  4. Mr Punch says:

    I’ve been complaining about Cambridgehenge for years – it makes for really frightening driving.

  5. JLOE says:

    I went in search of BackBayhenge tonight, based on your map, and it looks like I jumped the gun a little; the setting sun was behind the Prudential at sunset when viewed from the Public Garden at Boylston, Newbury, or Commonwealth. The earliest my schedule and clear sunset-viewing weather will coincide probably won’t be until Sunday the 10th, maybe too late for the phenomenon.

  6. WuFu says:

    I am a high school student who wants to make a map like this for his own West Coast city. Bostonographers, can you explain the geometric calculations that you used so that I can apply the same technique to my city’s gridiron streetscape?

    • There’s not much to it! I just looked at a street map and measured the angle of these streets from north. I used the Mac application xScope, but you could just as easily hold a protractor up to the screen. With that angle in hand, I went to the sunrise/sunset calculator mentioned in the post and found the days where the sunset or sunrise azimuth matches the angle.

  7. Avi says:

    You can add Longfellowhenge, April 3d (sunset).

    I drove straight at that flaming ball yesterday, felt like I was on a spaceship.