December 21, 2015 9:04 AM   Subscribe

We've talked about Manhattanhenge — the days, usually around May 2 and August 12, on which the setting sun aligns Stonehenge-style with Manhattan's street grid. But of course, the real Stonehenge doesn't line up with the sun on just any old day: it specifically marks sunrise and sunset on the solstices. So you might wonder, are there any streets that do that? The answer, as it turns out, is "Yes — lots!"

(Many of the places where this happens turn out to be very short stretches of road, meaning the sun will be blocked by other buildings and will not give the full Manhattanhenge effect. Oh well. Data is still awesome!)
posted by nebulawindphone (36 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Hooray for OpenStreetmap; it makes this kind of data analysis relatively straightforward. The MapBox visualization is very nice too.
posted by Nelson at 9:08 AM on December 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

Very cool.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:17 AM on December 21, 2015

Excellent. I will be ready with cloak and staff to honor the Solar Deity as he/she blasts 9th street on the Pagan grounds of Park Slope with luminous rays of Solstice amber.
posted by Liquidwolf at 9:21 AM on December 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Came here to find Hoddlehenge, left mildly disappointed but unsurprised.
posted by acb at 9:21 AM on December 21, 2015

When I visited Avebury, and to a lesser extent Stonehenge, I was moved to near tears and it felt like it was something spiritual but I realized later I was just overwhelmed by the awesomeness of humanity.

This is pretty much the 21st century equivalent of this. Yay!
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:21 AM on December 21, 2015

It's really interesting how some cities are pretty good for these and some are terrible. Austin, whose logical north actually points in a weird northeasterly direction, is weirdly closely aligned with the solstices, to the point where I wonder if someone planned it that way.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:23 AM on December 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

wow montreal so much henge
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:25 AM on December 21, 2015 [5 favorites]

In Vancouver my hometown the WHOLE grid of New Westminster does it. Wild!
posted by Meatbomb at 9:26 AM on December 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Pittsburgh doesn't do this well at all but we aren't given to having streets on grids or right angles.
posted by octothorpe at 9:29 AM on December 21, 2015

So this seems like a great way to plan local meet-ups
posted by cubby at 9:44 AM on December 21, 2015

So this seems like a great way to plan local meet-ups

Or to meet local druids.
posted by acb at 9:47 AM on December 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

One neighbourhood in my area is very pagan (Hello James Bay!) but up by me it's just a bike-walk path that I think developed from a dead end and people short cutting past the rugby field. Perhaps we were drawn to the route.
posted by chapps at 9:52 AM on December 21, 2015

Great post. The streets in Washington are mostly a standard north/south/east/west grid named with letters (E/W) and numbers (N/S). The diagonal avenues named after our country's states (e.g., Pennsylvania Ave.) are the most prominent variations: a few of those suddenly seem more interesting! Oddly enough, it looks like Pennsylvania Ave only qualifies for Washingtonhenge for a small stretch east of the Anacostia river.
posted by exogenous at 9:58 AM on December 21, 2015

I am amazed that I had no idea that half of the Montreal grid is solstice aligned, too bad it's cloudy today.
posted by jeather at 10:03 AM on December 21, 2015

Not if you have to drive home at sunset, it isn't...
posted by cardboard at 10:11 AM on December 21, 2015 [4 favorites]

There's a couple of blocks of W. 34th street just 2 blocks from where I live! I will turn right onto it tomorrow morning on my way to work, so cool! Hope it's not cloudy.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:13 AM on December 21, 2015

Interestingly, Winter Street in Boston is aligned with the Summer Solstice.
posted by usonian at 10:16 AM on December 21, 2015 [6 favorites]

Not if you have to drive home at sunset, it isn't...

I mostly drive E/W to work, so nowhere near sunrise and sunset. (Non-Montrealers: those red lines on the Montreal grid are considered N/S streets.)
posted by jeather at 10:22 AM on December 21, 2015

Ever since I've lived here I've been amused by how at a certain time of year the sun seems to set directly at the north end of ostensibly N-S streets like the Main (Montreal's grid being mainly tilted around 40-45° W off true north, sometimes more*.) Hadn't realized how closely many streets track the solstice.

(*My ostensibly west-facing window is closer to SSW, my "north" window has year-round views of sunsets, being roughly WNW.)
posted by Philofacts at 10:28 AM on December 21, 2015

Looking at St. Louis makes me think that there has have been some city planner who concocted the whole thing.
posted by dobi at 10:42 AM on December 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

ricochet biscuit: "wow montreal so much henge"

I can't wait for future archaeologists to unearth the ruins of Montreal and come up with wild explanations for what they find. I mean, Mount Royal Cemetery is right there ("massive burial mound"?).
posted by mhum at 10:55 AM on December 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

There's not much henge action going on up in Seattle, but I think I'll be going up to 105th and Greenwood around... um... 4:20 this evening. That looks like the longest stretch of Seattlehenge tonight.

I am also intensely amused by the fact that the winter solstice's sunset happens at Traditional Weed Time. I will be out in public watching the sun so it might be a bad idea to celebrate it with a toke...
posted by egypturnash at 11:27 AM on December 21, 2015

Oooo, this is fun, good job. Now... do the equinoxes (hint: Edmonton for the win!).
posted by hangashore at 11:31 AM on December 21, 2015

Given how many of the streets in Boston seem to be set up so that they're as frustratingly indirect and curved as possible, it's not surprising that we wouldn't have that many henges, although Logan airport as a nice pocket of henge.

Just for fun, I started looking at some of the other North American cities. One interesting thing is that if you look at the Atlanta map and move up to the area north east of the city (outside the perimeter), you'll find this pocket of so many roads that are lined up with the summer solstice. It covers a pretty large geographical area as best as I can tell from the map.

Montreal definitely looks like it could be in the running for peak henge. LA has some pretty good henge going on as well. (I think that's Downtown LA where there's a whole bunch of winter solstice henge, but I could be wrong.)
posted by litera scripta manet at 11:46 AM on December 21, 2015

Huh! Parts of the oldest street in the suburb I grew up in, which is one of the first streets in the area period, are like this. Part of the street I grew up on is, too, except that it's blocked by a strip mall. Not a ton of streets up there are aligned, though.

But wow, check out north St. Louis.
posted by limeonaire at 12:07 PM on December 21, 2015

Also, obligatory: Ylvis - Stonehenge
posted by mhum at 12:07 PM on December 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Confirms what I've suspected for a long time! One of Sydney's main arterial roads from the CBD to western suburbs is awfully close to being sunset aligned - a number of streets parallel to it are perfectly aligned. Beautiful planning, makes winter peak hour driving super fun /sarcasm.
posted by cholly at 12:08 PM on December 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

This might be intentional in some cities, not for the solstices specifically but to increase or decrease insolation In the cool and hot periods of the year. (Mostly overridden by topography, accident, colonialism; but it mattered more before cheap energy.)
posted by clew at 2:54 PM on December 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was unsurprised by the Los Angeles map... how downtown's grid had a lot of "Henge-ness" but the 'perfectly planned' N-S/E-W grid of the San Fernando Valley where I grew up was totally "Henge-unfriendly". I was pleasantly surprised that I once lived just off a "Henge-y" street (Venice Blvd. in West L.A./Palms). I'd like to see them do it for San Luis Obispo, where the downtown grid looks very "Henge-y" (one thing that tickled me was how they avoided calling any of the streets in that area "North", "South", "East" or "West" whatever... then it suddenly switches to a very compass-proper grid and "South Street" is one of the most perfectly east-west-aligned streets there.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:39 PM on December 21, 2015

awesome, my street lies on the winter sunrise solistice axis. I'm going to get up tomorrow morning to view that. Only 8:15 so definitely doable.
posted by ts;dr at 3:41 PM on December 21, 2015

Hell's bells, I used to live on one! Sheridan Road in Evanston, IL between Chicago Ave. and Central Street. I lived on Orrington Ave. which ran parallel one block west. Saints be praised. I only which I'd known it at the time!
posted by cleroy at 7:14 PM on December 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh boy, this is exciting! I live within walking distance of two streets that perfectly align with the winter solstice sunrise/ summer solstice sunset and winter solstice sunset / summer solstice sunrise respectively. Just might head out at 705PM to check this out; if I'm reading the map correct, the sun will appear to set into an apartment estate I used to live in.

What's really fascinating for me is that it's only _part_ of the street that does it; visually, it appears that North American streets have longer stretches where the "-henge" phenomenon can happen. Says quite a bit about not just early 19th century city-planning (North American towns loved their grid formation?) and urban topography (Singapore, at least in the south west, "feels" like a grid, but the roads apparently meander around hills for the most part).

Could latitude and longitude also play a part? For further geo-geekery, the road in front of the MRT station named for the latitude that apparently passes through the spot, one-north, also witnesses a -henge, so to speak.
posted by the cydonian at 7:56 PM on December 21, 2015

Also, where magnetic north was when the city was settled/gridded! Check out Boston for example -- its gray blob map of overall street orientations (on the left) has compass points tilted 6-12 degrees off from present day, because magnetic north has wandered around.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:07 PM on December 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

Ha! Top of Byres Road in Glasgow's aligned with the winter solstice sunset. I know where I'll head in, uh, a very short time. If you know Glasgow at all, top of Byres Road being aligned makes perfect sense in that special West End smug way (I live here. I'm allowed).
posted by kariebookish at 3:13 AM on December 22, 2015

One interesting thing is that if you look at the Atlanta map and move up to the area north east of the city (outside the perimeter), you'll find this pocket of so many roads that are lined up with the summer solstice.
Oh that's fun, that's where I grew up! Sadly the road that my house was on is not solsticely-aligned. I speculate that the density there is largely because that area has I-85 going through it in a roughly SW<->NE direction, so a lot of the streets are roughly parallel to that and end up being solsticely-aligned. Still, that area is the heart of upper-middle-class suburbia (or was in the 90s, anyway), so it's a little surprising to see so many streets lining up like that - they really like curvy, non-gridlike road plans. I wish I could overlay the county borders to see how much it matches up with Gwinnett County; the vague shape of the yellow area if you zoom out a little sure looks like it could be.

Neat find regardless. :)
posted by ashirys at 7:14 AM on December 22, 2015

Pleasantly surprised to find that (a stretch of) Druid St. near Tower Bridge in London aligns with the solstice (winter sunrise/summer sunset). I wonder whether that's a coincidence.
posted by acb at 9:14 AM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

« Older Factory-produced: Photographs 1964-1970   |   Stream The Beatles Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments