Between April 8th and April 9th, our solar system’s star will be parallel to California Street — so make sure you clean off your iPhone lenses before snapping those pictures.
Sunlight has a particular dance that’s uniquely celestial. It’s captivating and illuminating — a balm for seasonal depression and essential to our sleep cycles. The light that emanates from our sun is also privy to producing hyperlocal phenomena. (Fogbows that take our breath away; IRL rainbows meeting rainbow-inspired pedestrian bridges; Yosemite’s Horsetail Fall glows a sunset orange on rare occasions during February.)
For us San Franciscans, one such marvel we can put on our calendars this month is when the sun *perfectly aligns* with California Street. While it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when this will happen, it’s speculated to occur around 6:45 a.m. on either April 8th or April 9th.
In New York City, this biannual alignment was coined the “Manhattanhenge” — an event that captures the sun setting (or rising!) with the Manhattan street grid. The sun’s luminosity shines right down Manhattan’s east-to-west streets, etching out a sliver of light that bounces off highrises and bodegas.
The term, itself — “Manhattanhenge” — grew to cultural fame after it was popularized by astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson, who first described the event way back in 2002. And though such events have been around as long as parallel street grids have been in place, the San Francisco iteration of this — let’s call it the “Friscohenge” — will occur this week when the sun rises over downtown, lining up picture-perfectly with California Street.
Perhaps the best vantage point to witness/photograph/vibe with your Sightglass coffee is at the intersection of Gough and California streets. In 2021, shutterbug Shane Ware captured the event in a truly jaw-dropping still.
“It’s almost that time again! In just a few weeks San Francisco Henge lines up down California Street,” write Ware in an Instagram caption posted on March 21. “Here’s my capture from 2021.”
In the quick ten-second video, Ware shows himself crouching behind the lens of his positioned camera to patiently wait for the exact moment the sun completely rises above California Street. And he’s not alone; three other eager photographers are shown in the same frame perched on the street to capture their stills.
(Alas, I, myself, am by no means a morning person; I tend to greet the daybreak hours from the opposite end of my 6:30 a.m. alarm; it’s the same one that I snooze at least a half-dozen times before becoming upright. But best believe I’ll have an extra expresso or three this week to get out the door and find myself somewhere along California Street with my $1,100 block of sapphire glass and stainless steel in hand.)
Should you also want to stand in the street to get the perfect picture, maybe don a reflective vest and make sure your shoe laces are tied… so you don’t trip on them when you inevitably have to dart toward the sidewalk.
Feature image: Courtesy of u/old_gold_mountain