The extraordinary bi-annual event occurs for the spring and fall equinox.
With the Chicago Air & Water show and many of our favorite summer events behind us the next sensational spectacle to look out for in the skies of Chicago, for us at least, is none other than fall’s Stonehenge phenomenon, dubbed ‘Chicagohenge’ which brings about the start of fall.
You’re likely familiar with the prehistoric boulder formation in Wiltshire, England. During the summer and winter solstice, the sun rises behind Stonehenge’s Heel Stone, where its rays are captured within the rock frame, creating a glorious spectacle that thousands of people flock to experience.
In Chicago, the equinoxes provide a similar extraordinary experience right here in our urban metropolis. The magic of nature and Chicago’s glorious architecture collaborate harmoniously as the sun beams down the artificial valleys of downtown creating a sublime sight during the Chicagohenge’s peak between September 21st – 23rd.
In the days before and after the autumn equinox, which will this year take place on Thursday, 22 September 2022, at 20:03 CDT according to timeanddate.com, the sun will align perfectly with Chicago’s east-west facing streets for both sunrise and sunset. The reason for the so-called Chicagohenge has to do with the equinoxes as well as Chicago’s grid system.
An equinox is one of the two times of the year (spring equinox and autumn equinox) when the Earth’s equator gets the most sunlight. It’s also the time of the year that the Northern and Southern Hemispheres are distributed equal amounts of sunlight.
“Since the Earth’s axis is tilted, sunlight is not always distributed equally,” Chicago’s Adler Planetarium explains on its website. “At any given point, one-half of the Earth is tilted towards the Sun more than the other. As the Earth orbits around the Sun, the part that was tilting away from the Sun begins to be the part that is facing towards the Sun.”
“During an equinox, the Sun rises and sets directly to the east and west.” Because Chicago was built on a grid system, that is, with streets arranged at right angles into the shape of a grid — with streets lining up near perfectly on compass north to south and east to west — residents can witness the astrological phenomenon.
Chicago’s fall Chicagohenge will peak between September 21 and September 23. Park yourself on an east-to-west running street just after sunrise or before sunset, and watch the spectacle radiate over the City of Chicago! Some favorite spotting locations include between Kinzie and Madison as well as E Randolph Street between N State St. and N Michigan Avenue.
For the full Chicagohenge experience, you can capture the phenomenon along Washington Street from Millennium Park. According to timeanddate.com, on Thursday, September 22, the sun will rise at 06:38 and set at 18:47 while on Friday, September 23rd it will rise at 06:39 and set at 19:45.
[Featured image from Instagram / @_alexqian]