Too Busy Watching Evening Television

“Why the ancient civilizations who built the place did not use the easier, nearby rocks remains a mystery. But the skills and knowledge on display at Stonehenge are not. The major phases of construction took a total of a few hundred years. Perhaps the preplanning took another hundred or so. You can build anything in half a millennium – I don’t care how far you choose to drag your bricks. Furthermore, the astronomy embodied in Stonehenge is not fundamentally deeper than what can be discovered with a stick in the ground.

Perhaps these ancient observatories perennially impress modern people because modern people have no idea how the Sun, Moon, or stars move. We are too busy watching evening television to care what’s going on in the sky. To us, a simple rock alignment based on cosmic patterns looks like an Einsteinian feat. But a truly mysterious civilization would be one that made no cultural or architectural reference to the sky at all.”
― Neil deGrasse Tyson, Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries

View down Elm Street from walkway, near Harwood.  Downtown Dallas, Texas

View down Elm Street from walkway, near Harwood.
Downtown Dallas, Texas

For awhile now I have been interested in the phenomenon of Dallashenge. This is when, one certain days of the year, the sun is aligned to rise or set directly on a line with one of the major canyon streets of downtown, either in the evening or in the morning.

A lot of people do photography in New York at Manhattanhenge, but few realize the same phenomenon occurs in other big cities.

You can use Suncalc to determine the henge dates. I’ve gone downtown a few times to shoot both the morning and evening henges.

Morning Dallashenge from the triple underpass in Dealey Plaza.

Morning Dallashenge from the triple underpass in Dealey Plaza.

Links to blog entries:

Test Shots for Dallashenge

Dallashenge Photographs

Test Shots for a Morning Dallashenge

Morning Dallashenge – maybe a couple days early

Two Days Later

When I first did this I had to look around for shot locations. One place I thought would be good was the pedestrian bridge over Elm Street – but at the time I wasn’t sure how to get into the thing or what the view would look like, so I opted for a street-level view.

Here’s a test shot I took that shows the pedestrian bridge.

Elm and Harwood Streets. I like this view. I'm not sure if the pedestrian bridge will ruin the shot. Also, the Lew Sterrett jail is at the end of the street and may block the sun's orb..

Elm and Harwood Streets. I like this view. I’m not sure if the pedestrian bridge will ruin the shot. Also, the Lew Sterrett jail is at the end of the street and may block the sun’s orb..

At any rate, the other day I went on a tour of some of Downtown Dallas’ pedestrian tunnels and bridges.

As part of the tour we passed through the pedestrian bridge – it’s easy to get to and even has a cool coffee shop, Stupid Good Coffee nearby.

As you can see from the photo I took (the first one in this entry) during the tour, the view from the walkway is pretty good. One problem though, is that the distant Lew Sterrett jail blocks the horizon, so the best shot might be a couple days later (or before… I’ll have to think about it).

Plus, the tunnel system is officially only open from six to six and the sun sets at about six forty five – so I’d have to overstay a bit. A tripod set up with a camera might be a defense – we’ll have to see.

The next evening dallashenge date looks to be around October 26, so I have some time to think about it.

Test Shots for a Morning Dallashenge

Last year I went into downtown Dallas at sunset for Dallashenge.

Dallashenge

Dallashenge

Dallashenge, for those that never read or can’t remember my entries from over a year ago, is the date when the sun sets directly down one of the vast glittering canyons formed by the reflecting glass-clad rows of skyscrapers lining the streets. It is derived (by me) from the more famous Manhattanhenge, from New York.

Dallas and New York are interesting because their central business district streets don’t run on a direct east-west grid. Those that do, such as Chicago, will have their ‘henge dates on the summer and winter solstices… plus their morning and evening ‘henges will be on the same day. For a city on the bias, you have to calculate the henge dates – luckily the website Suncalc makes all that very easy.

So, last year, I calculated the evening Dallashenge as February 15th, took some test shots, and then went down there at sunset and made some photos. I don’t know if the photos do justice, but it was a fun exercise in research, travel, and photography anyway. It was fun answering questions about why I was running out into a crosswalk with a camera on a tripod at sunset.

I have been thinking about a morning voyage to a Dallashenge. Other than the sheer laziness in avoiding getting up that early, I have put it off because I didn’t have a good spot. I was thinking about a parking garage at the city jail – but it wasn’t perfect and I wasn’t sure if photography would be welcome. Then, one day I was riding the DART line to the Convention Center and as the train crossed over the famous triple underpass I realized that there was a walkway along the rail lines. The sight line went straight down Main street and would be perfect for a morning Dallashenge.

During a downtown bike ride I decided to head over to that end of downtown and do some test shots. The spot turned out to be a perfect view down the street, plus it’s a well known spot – you enter the railroad overpass from the infamous “grassy knoll” and look out over the area where the Kennedy Assassination took place almost fifty years ago.

The morning Dallashenge date will be April 19, with the sun rising at six fifty-three in the morning. Now, I have to get up enough gumption to get up that early and head down to get some photos.

The view east down Main Street from the Triple Underpass. The sun will rise right down the middle of the street on April 19, morning Dallashenge.

The view east down Main Street from the Triple Underpass. The sun will rise right down the middle of the street on April 19, morning Dallashenge.

This is the walkway along the rail tracks over the underpass, with the Dallas Hyatt Regency and Reunion Tower in the background.

This is the walkway along the rail tracks over the underpass, with the Dallas Hyatt Regency and Reunion Tower in the background.

The view a little to the left of Main Street. That's the curve of Elm Street. The grassy knoll is on the left, the Texas Schoolbook Depository is the lighter brick building over the trees. The assassination site is right in front of the two cars coming down the road.

The view a little to the left of Main Street. That’s the curve of Elm Street. The grassy knoll is on the left, the Texas Schoolbook Depository is the lighter brick building over the trees. The assassination site is right in front of the two cars coming down the road.

Dallashenge

A few days ago I read about the phenomenon of Manhattanhenge – the phenomenon that occurs several times a year when the rising or setting sun happens to align perfectly with the canyons of New York City. It is called Manhattanhenge in honor of Stonhenge… which is in putative alignment with its own set of heavenly circuits.

Image from New York Bridge and Tunnel Club

I really never thought about the fact that the streets of Manhattan don’t run perfectly East-West. They are aligned with the long axis of the island itself, about thirty degrees off of the meridian.

I began to think about Dallas, so I pulled up a map. The streets in downtown, the ones that run between the skyscrapers – Commerce, Main, Elm – don’t run perfectly East-West either. I don’t know what the layout is based on… probably where the deer and the antelope used to roam. Looking around the internet, I found suncalc.net, which made it easy to find the directions of sunrise and sunset at different times of the year.

According to suncalc.net in 2012 Downtown Dallas, the Sunset Stonehenge moment will be at 6:13 PM on February 15, and the Sunrise Stonehenge will be 6:53 AM on April 19th. That’s when the sun will rise/set right along the canyons of buildings along the streets downtown. I’m going to try to remember and be there to take some pictures.

One big question is where. I’m going to have to go downtown and walk around and look for good places. Commerce, Main, and Elm all have a lot of tall buildings lining the sidewalks, but it’s hard to tell where the best spot is. One problem is the Lew Sterrett Center sticks up at the west end of Downtown; the jail will block the sun.

Another problem is how to get the picture without getting run over. The streets of downtown are busy at the evening hour and I’ll have to wait for a walk signal, run out into the street, take a snap, and then get the hell out of Dodge. Looking through Google Maps I found this:

Googlemap Streetview

Maybe that pedestrian overpass would be a good spot. I’ll have to check it out and make sure it’s open to the public and that the glass is clean.

It would be cool to have a group down there taking photographs. If any of y’all are interested, get with me, and we can talk.

If the weather is bad, another Stonehenge Sunrise will come on August 23rd (6:57) and another Stonehenge Sunset will occur on October 25 (6:43).

WordPress Blogs:

Chicagohenge:

Chicago is interesting because its streets do run straight East-West. Therefore, their “henge” is on the equinox.