The Longest Shadows of the Year: Cityhenge


***Cityhenge - Have you heard of this unique urban phenomenon?

Open File Ottawa (remember them?) held a contest in 2011 and this was the first time I had heard about it.  OFO is now defunct :  ( but there are still a couple of photos from that time on Twitter (#ottawahenge).

Cityhenge is when the setting sun lines up exactly with the street-grid illuminating the east-west corridors and casting amazing long shadows that are parallel with the streets.

It can set up really incredible photographs if you get out at exactly the right time.  Sometimes even just half of the setting sun lines up with the street system as it gently arcs itself down to the horizon and softly puts itself to bed.  :  )


Ottawa is not the only city to experience this. Toronto, Montreal, Manhattan, Chicago and many other cities also have their own natural occurrences (although they may not be at the same time in each city). Mika McKinnon wrote a great article for Gizmodo stating that  "Any city with a grid street system and a clear view of the horizon has its own cityhenge day, determined by the alignment of (their street) grid... "  She also explains how you can determine when this phenomenon will occur in your city: "A gridded city's henge date depends on its alignment with respect to north."

Read more here at Gizmo.


If you are downtown, start checking for this phenomenon around late November and into December.  Verify the weather forecast first (cross your fingers for clear afternoon skies) and then get outdoors before sunset (which is early this time of year)!  Best bets are along Laurier Avenue and any downtown east-west street to Wellington Avenue and possibly even Rideau Street!  The photo above was taken on Sparks Street between Bank and O'Connor at 4 pm EST.

This phenomenon also works for the rising sun but may not be as dramatic. You may also notice this at different times when the sun is higher in the sky but casting those perfect parallel shadows.

Have you noticed this phenomenon when you were downtown?

What other cities did you catch this cool effect?


***Photo Credit for amazing first image: Steve Brandon (Flickr)















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