Torontohenge to deliver the best views of Toronto downtown streets this evening
Get your cameras ready and stake out your viewing spots for this spectacular solar alignment!
At sunset tonight, look to the west along any of downtown Toronto's east-west aligned streets, and have your camera ready to capture some spectacular images of Torontohenge.
Years ago, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson coined the term Manhattanhenge. It describes certain days of the year when the setting Sun lines up perfectly along the streets of Manhattan.
Framed by the tall skyscrapers of the New York City borough, this produces an effect similar to what the ancient druids created when they erected Stonehenge in what is now Wiltshire county in southwest England.
Manhattanhenge along 42nd St, June 3, 2008. Credit: Sevtibidou/Wikimedia Commons
Manhattan isn't the only place that sees this kind of phenomenon, though.
Toronto experiences it as well, and — appropriately — this is called Torontohenge.
There are four specific times of year to view Torontohenge. The first of those in 2022 is on Tuesday, February 15.
According to Ralph Bouwmeester, a Sun/shadow modeller who runs the SunPosition blog, great photos can be taken for about a week after, as well.
The best downtown locations to view Torontohenge are typically along Wellington Street W, King Street W, Adelaide Street W, and Richmond Street W. On King Street W, outside of Roy Thomson Hall, is especially good. Farther north, Bloor Street W near the intersection with Yonge Street is also a great spot.
This map shows the best streets for viewing Torontohenge from downtown Toronto. Credits: Google/Scott Sutherland
Each of these roads is straight, with tall buildings lining both sides, and they have a relatively unobstructed view of the western horizon. Any similar street will produce the desired effect, though.
Sunset occurs at:
5:47 p.m. on Tuesday,
5:49 p.m. on Wednesday,
5:50 p.m. on Thursday,
5:51 p.m. on Friday, and
5:53 p.m. on Saturday.
To get the whole experience, though, plan to be set up at your desired viewing spot at least half an hour before sunset. That way, you can watch as the Sun slowly comes into alignment between the buildings.
CLEAR SKIES OR CLOUDY?
Based on the weather forecast, Toronto should have reasonably clear skies at sunset tonight. While there looks to be plenty of sunshine during the day Wednesday, clouds rolling in towards evening may spoil the view, and that will persist through Thursday. Friday and Saturday may be good days to catch it again.
Check your local forecast to be sure.
Watch below: How to capture the best sunset photos
WHAT'S GOING ON HERE?
Throughout the year, our planet's tilt causes the Sun to change position in our skies. From day to day, the Sun gets higher in our sky from winter solstice through summer solstice. It then gets lower in our sky, day by day, for the remainder of the year. So, with each sunrise and sunset we experience, we see the Sun at a different point along the horizon than it was the day before.
This 'solargraph' image captures the Sun's path across the sky, day after day, between the dates of February 28 and June 20, 2016. Credit: Bret Culp (Used with permission)
Noticing this trend, ancient peoples such as the druids set up monuments in such a way that the Sun would line up with them on particular days of the year. This is typically on the four significant astronomical dates — the winter and summer solstices and the spring and fall equinoxes.
Cities such as New York and Toronto weren't built with these alignments in mind. Instead, the local geography dictated how they developed. For Manhattan, it was the orientation of the island. For Toronto, it was the shape of the lakeshore. However, by coincidence, it turned out that there were specific dates where the rising or setting Sun would line up perfectly with the city's streets. The effect became even more 'henge-like' as the buildings were built taller and taller, as they framed the alignment perfectly.
In Manhattan, the setting Sun lines up along the city's streets on May 29/30 and July 11/12. For Toronto, both the rising and setting Sun will line up along the city's downtown core. Thus, Torontonians can see sunset alignments around February 15 and October 25, and sunrise alignments around April 19 and August 23.
MORE THAN JUST TORONTO
Other cities in Canada experience ‘henges, as well.
For example, although there are fewer tall buildings, Halifaxhenge happens on the same dates of Torontohenge. For Montrealhenge, streets running northwest-southeast, such as Robert Bourassa Boulevard and Peel St, line up with the sunset on Summer Solstice and sunrise at Winter Solstice.
For Calgaryhenge, the Sun aligns between the buildings on 4th, 5th, or 6th Avenues, at sunrise around March 14 and sunset around March 21, and then at sunset on September 21 and sunrise on September 28. Edmontonhenge is best seen (both sunset and sunrise) right around the March and September equinoxes.
A CALL FOR CAUTION
With the setting sun shining straight down the streets of Toronto, the glare will undoubtedly make things difficult for those behind the wheel of their evening commute.
Whether the Sun is directly in your eyes as you drive west or in your rear-view mirror as you drive east, extra care should be taken during the afternoon commutes for the rest of this week. That way, we can all arrive at our destinations, safe and sound.
If you are out in downtown Toronto to see Torontohenge for yourself, be very careful when viewing, as well. There is a great temptation to step out into the middle of the street to capture the perfect view. If you choose to do so, please be mindful of traffic, as well as the potential impact of glare on the ability of any driver to see you.
SHARE THE EVENT!
If you do manage to catch this event and you have a camera handy, send us your pictures at @weathernetwork on Twitter, or upload your photos to our UGC gallery!