WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Rising sun creates 'Raleigh-henge'

Posted March 15, 2013
Updated March 16, 2013

The sun falls in line with Martin Street, Downtown Raleigh, in the early morning of March 14, 2013. On this day the sun will line up with Martin Street for a possible Raleigh henge. (Photo by John West)

— The rising sun Thursday and Friday mornings aligned with the street grid of downtown Raleigh to create what some call "Raleigh-henge." This Stonehenge-like phenomenon happens periodically when the sun rises at 92º azimuth (just a bit north of due east) nicely between the buildings and shines straight down the east/west running streets.

This happens in other cities where streets are laid out in a grid pattern. In Manhattan, this happens in late May. A long corridor running through several buildings at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has a similar solar phenomenon dubbed MIT-henge, next expected in November.

This is all in fun and gave photographer John West a good excuse to capture beautiful images of the rising sun over Martin and Hargett streets downtown. Looking at all of this does bring some questions:

Why are Raleigh streets canted slightly from due east-west (90º)? Did the original hills and valleys of early Raleigh work better in this layout or were city planners of the time just a little off?

If any future civilizations study Raleigh the way we study Stonehenge, trying to match up measurements with what they might mean, they might also wonder: What is so special about March 14? Why did Raleigh align their streets this way?

Perhaps they'll assume Raleigh residents organized their calendars around the start of the ACC Tournament.


Tony Rice is a volunteer in the NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador program and software engineer at Cisco Systems. You can follow him on twitter @rtphokie.

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  • psl542 Mar 17, 2013

    The sun is a little south of due east right now. Hits due east in a few days, then trends north.

  • charlesboyer Mar 15, 2013

    Very cool...kind of reminds me of Manhattan-henge (May 29th and July 12th) that Neil deGrasse Tyson wrote about some twelve-odd years ago.

  • bashfuly Mar 15, 2013

    The Sun glares so low and bright making it hard to see the traffic light changing.