MIT Henge - The Sun Shines Through MIT


Created November 2007, updated a few times since then.

Actually, "henge" is a bit of a misnomer. MIT is more like the passage tomb at Newgrange or the temple at Abu Simbel


Read Alan Eliasen's explanation first then read Keith Winstein's explanation and watch this Video by Dan Falk.
Then come back here. Look at all the pictures and read the day-by-day descriptions.


Location of 77 Mass. Ave.

 

MIT Building 7 entrance, 77 Mass Ave.

 

Looking toward the sunset from 77 Mass Ave.

 

Building 7 lobby.

 

Sunset through the 77 Mass Ave. window.

 

A closeup of the window shows the trees and buildings..

 

The sun shining down the Infinite Corridor.

 

A much more dramatic picture.

 

And did I say it was a big deal!

 

Another alignment at MIT. The Winter Solstice sunset down Vassar St.

 


January 2014 Update

Tuesday, Jan. 7th: Alan Eliasen has updated his predictions to include 2014 and 2015.   Here.

Saturday, Jan. 25th: Here is a diagram that Ken Olum made of the geometry of the corridor 3rd floor. Note that the doorway at the west end of the corridor is only 54" wide (4 ft 3 in).   Drawing

Ken's original drawing

Sunday, Jan. 26th: Cloudy.

Monday, Jan. 27th: Cloudy.

Tuesday, Jan. 28th: Cloudy.   Pictures

Wednesday, Jan. 29th: First clear day after three cloudy days. I put the camera on the floor and took a video.   Pictures

Thursday, Jan. 30th: Another clear day. Today, I went to the second floor, fastened the camera to the Lobby 7 balcony railing and took a video through the solar filter.   Pictures

Friday, Jan. 31st: On and off clouds all day. Late in the day, it looked like there might be some sun at sunset, but it clouded up completely about 10 minutes before sunset.

Saturday, Feb. 1st: Another on and off cloudy day. Cloudy at sunset but some pink sky.   Pictures


November 2013 Update

Friday, Nov. 8th: 2 days early. The sun would be a bit too high to shine all the way down the hall. There were a lot of clouds during the day and even a few raindrops. At sunset, there was a band of clouds near the horizon but seemed clear underneath. There were still leaves on the trees. JB and I got there and first looked at the view from the 2nd floor and then went up to the 3rd floor and observed from the railing of Lobby 7. Nobody else was there. We did see the sun cross the window and tried taking some hand-held pictures with and without a solar filter. There did not seem to be a strong light-down-the-hall effect.   Pictures

Saturday, Nov. 9th: 1 day early. I was not able to get to MIT today since I had to be a TA at a blacksmithing class. JB did get there and reported that it was a lot like Friday. She observed from the Building 6-8 junction.

Sunday, Nov. 10th: Like Friday, it was cloudy with a clear band below the clouds. So at the appointed hour, there was actually some sun shining down the hallway. There were more people there today but it wasn't too crowded.   Pictures

Monday, Nov. 11th: The sun went behind a cloud at the last minute.   Pictures

Tuesday, Nov. 12th: I was not able to get to MIT today or the days following due to having to travel to California. JB reports that nothing was seen on Tuesday.

Saturday, Dec. 7th: Went down to MIT to watch sunset down Vassar St. Stellarium says that at 3:53 PM the sun's azimuth was 236 and altitude was 3.   Pictures

Wednesday, Dec. 18th: The Winter Solstice is three days away. It was clear. The sunset alignment down Vassar St. was quite good. I have gotten a solar filter for my SX-40 camera.   Pictures

Wednesday, Dec. 25th: The Winter Solstice was four days ago. It was clear today but clouded up by the time I got down to MIT.. I was going to check out the view down the railroad tracks. I did check out the view from the pedestrian bridge at the West Garage.   Pictures

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I've been given a pointer to the Suncalc web page, which can be used to look for sun alignments.   Suncalc

Two explanations of why the earliest sunset is not on Dec. 21.
Atlantic Magazine   Larry Denenberg


January 2013 Update (The Year Without An MIT Henge)

Friday, Jan. 18th: 9 days early. I was down at MIT this afternoon so I decided to stay until sunset and try out a new Canon SX-40 camera. The sun set somewhat south of where it will be during the alignment.   Pictures

Sunday, Jan. 27th: This was the first day that was predicted to have the sun crossing the window, although at the bottom left-hand corner. Since nobody else was there and it didn't look completely promising, I observed right from the railing at Lobby 7 rather than going down the hallway. I mounted the Canon SX-40 right on the railing and took a 12 minute video. At first, as the sun cleared the column to the left of the window, sunlight started to advance down the north wall of the hallway. Then it seemed to just fade away. I don't know if this was because the sun had actually set behind the buildings and hills on the horizon or if there were some clouds out there. It did seem like there might have been some clouds. This happened a few minutes before the predicted sunset. The result was that nothing much was seen today.   Pictures

Monday, Jan. 28th: Cloudy with snow.

Tuesday, Jan. 29th: Cloudy. I wonder how they feel at Stonehenge when it's cloudy on the summer solstice.

Wednesday, Jan. 30th: Warm and cloudy with drizzle.

Thursday, Jan. 31st: Rainy in the morning, clearing nicely during the day and then just enough clouds at sunset so prevent us from seeing anything. I also checked out Vassar St. and the railroad tracks behind MIT. They are aligned pretty close to the Winter Solstice sunset, so that will be worth observing sometime.   Pictures

Friday, Feb. 1st: Thick cloud at sunset.   Pictures

Saturday, Feb. 2nd: Cloudy.

Note: There is a moon crossing on Sunday, Feb. 3rd about 10:30 AM in the morning. The moon will be at last quarter phase.

Sunday Morning, Feb. 3rd: Guess what? Cloudy and snowflakes!

Saturday, March 23rd: Stopped by MIT to look at the windows again, trying to see just how much sky you can actually see. Look at the three vent stacks on the building in the distance and you can see that you can't see much sky above them. The field of view is very small.   Pictures

Sunday, April 7th: John Sheff reports a sunset alignment with Cambridge St. in Cambridge. It also happens around Sept. 4-5. And also an alignment with Broadway around May 17-19. The Feb. 3rd Boston Globe article also mentions these alignments.

Sunday, May 30th: ManhattanHenge was yesterday.  Info here.   and here,   and Wikipedia.

Sunday, July 12th: ManhattanHenge is happening again.  Info here.

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Slice of MIT 1/28/2013 - How Building 7 got built.

The Feb. 3rd Boston Sunday Globe had an article that mentions MIT Henge and other solar alignments in Boston and Cambridge. Here is the MAP.     The whole article as .pdf (2.9Mb) is HERE.

The Washington Post had an article about Manhattan Henge on May 30, 2012.   HERE.

Various web sites can generate a sun path diagram. Here is a diagram that shows where along the horizon are the sunrise and sunset points during the year. HERE.     This chart was generated HERE

An interesting app that uses Google Maps to show the direction to the sun is HERE.


November 2012 Update

Saturday, Nov. 3rd: I went down to MIT to photograph the Lobby 7 windows from different distances down the hallway, from the Lobby 7 railing all the way down to the far end. The pictures are Here

Using the pictures of the windows from various distances and a picture of the sun through some clouds, I put together this page showing how the size of the sun compares to the size of the window ar various locations down the hallway. The doorway at the west end of the 3rd floor hallway is only 54 inches wide, so from the far eastern end of the hallway, the doorway is smaller than the width of the sun.   Pictures

Sunday, Nov. 4th: Since it looked like it would be clear, I went down to MIT for the sunset even though it is 6 days before the predicted best date. The sun was higher than it will be next weekend and didn't shine all the way down the 3rd floor hallway, but the effect is close to what it will look like next Saturday. Pictures are: Here

Friday, Nov. 9th: Nobody was there since it wasn't a predicted day, but the alignment was good.   Pictures

Saturday, Nov. 10th: Pictures

Sunday, Nov. 11th: We didn't see much today. The sun started to shine down the right side of the hallway, then seemed to stop. We don't know if it went behind a cloud or the predictions were off. We need a spotter or camera outside to tell us what's going on. Pictures are: Here

Monday, Nov. 12th: Cloudy. Pictures

A video that I found on YouTube.

And another one.


May 2012 Update

A video from MIT by Dan Falk. It's a good explanation of the event.

An article about Manhattanhenge at MSNBC.

The Wikipedia article on Manhattanhenge


January 2012 Update

Slice of MIT 1/27/2012 - Celebrate MIThenge

Pictures from January 29, 2012.


November 2011 Update

Boston Globe article from 11/12/2011    As PDF


June 2011 Update

Slice of MIT 6/30/2011 - How MIThenge Got Its Start

A short video from MIT Multimedia

The Sky & Telescope web article of January 27, 2011    As PDF

Full Sky & Tel article from November 2003 (PDF)


January 2011 Update

Pictures from January 30, 2011
Pictures from January 31, 2011


Original Main Section

When I first started researching MIT Henge, I was frustrated by having to search for the information in different places. So I decided to centralize everything that I found in one place, this web page. After building the page in 2007, I realized that I didn't have any pictures of the outside of the building or of the horizon where the sun was setting. I have tried to add those pictures now, in January of 2011.

Twice a year, the sun aligns with the Infinite Corridor at MIT at sunset. Since the orientation of MIT does not line up with the winter or summer solstice, there are two dates during the year that this happens, around January 30 and November 11. By coincidence, these dates are near the Cross Quarter days of Samhain and Imbolc (Groundhog Day). As a side note, for Boston, Groundhog Day is the first day on which the sun has not set by 5:00 PM, so it is still daytime at the end of the work day.

The best technical details are here: This paper by Alan Eliasen

Other information is here:

See what the Clear Sky Clock says

The MIT Planning Office web page

The complete prediction table by Ken Olum

Stuart Goldmans 2003 article from Sky & Telescope (pdf)

A November 2005 email from Alan Eliasen

Wikipedia article about the Infinite Corridor


For a Google Maps satellite picture of the location in question, click HERE.

What does the planetarium program XEphem say about where the sun is? Note that the lat-lon is generic Cambridge.

At 16:20:10 PM on 11/11/07 xephem gives the following values using the coordinates 42:22:01, 71:06:22, elevation 6.1 meters, temp 10.0 C, pressure 1010 mB.

RA 15:06:09.27, Dec -17:28:11.0, Az 245:44:33, Alt 0:41:09, rise 06:29, set 16:27


For some information on atmospheric refraction, see: this web page


For information on safe solar observing, see: Fred Espenaks solar eclipse web site at NASA.
Scroll down to the section on "Safe Eclipse Viewing and Photography".


A couple of other interesting places with solar alignments are: Newgrange and Karnak


If your interest in MIT Henge extends to sundials, investigate the North American Sundial Society or the Sundial mailing list


Will it be clear? Look at the Clear Sky Clock.


Sunrise and sunset from Time and Date . com


Sunrise, sunset and sunpath from GAISMA


Sun and moon data from The U.S. Naval Observatory


Pictures from Sunday, November 11, 2007


All images Copyright 2007 by Richard Koolish

Kresge Auditorium at MIT


A friend suggests forming the MIT Henge Society

> Dick,
> 
> How about creating a charter for the MITHenge Society? Here's a draft  
> to spur you on:
> 
> 
> The MITHenge Society (MITHS) is dedicated to the betterment of  
> mankind through a deeper understanding of the MITHenge phenomenon.
> 
> Documentation
> - Measure the azimuth of the Infinite corridor
> - Measure the elevation to the horizon
> 
> Theoretical
> - Examine the effect of atmospheric refraction
> 
> Publication
> - Videos of sun moving by
> - Web page to contain above
> - Real-time video of the next event on the Web
> 
> Preservation
> - Work with MIT and the City of Cambridge to maintain a clear view of  
> the horizon
> 
> Social
> - Examine the causes that lead technically minded persons to find  
> this phenomenon fascinating
> 
>