An Astrophysicist’s Manhattan
Natural History Magazine
This cartoon, a double-page spread by Stan Mack, appeared in Natural History magazine and was inspired by a tour Dr. Tyson gave to Stan Mack, showing the astrophysical highlights of Manhattan.
It includes the first published reference to times and dates for Manhattanhenge.
Descriptions for the visually impaired
In this panel of the cartoon we see a sketch of Neil deGrasse Tyson, wearing an astronomical vest, walking with the artist, Stan Mack, at the corner of 81st Street and Central Park West. There’s a subway entrance on the right, and a directional sign for Central Park pointing to the right, and the planetarium, pointing to the left.
Neil says to Stan, “New Yorkers never look up. They are decoupled from the sky. When I was a kid in the Bronx, I thought the planetarium stars were a hoax.”
Neil and Stan are standing at the entrance to the Sheep Meadow in Central Park. The grassy meadow is before them, and they look toward the distant trees and skyline of Manhattan.
Neil says to Stan, “The buildings around the park are like a giant Stonehenge. Future civilizations will think we built all this as an observatory to view the stars.”
A close up in profile of Neil and Stan looking down at an object while people toss a frisbee in the background in the park.
Neil says, “With this global positioning instrument, I can tell you exactly where we are on Earth. Instead of saying, ‘There’s no place like home,’ you can say ‘There’s no place like 40° 46′ 16″ North by 73° 58′ 34″ West.’ ”
Neil and Stan are now at the Sun Triangle at 6th Avenue and 50th Street, where Neil gestures toward one point of the large, hollow triangle.
Neil says to Stan, “This sculpture is really a sun triangle for the cosmically deprived. On the first day of every season, the sun lines up with its angles.”
Neil and Stan are now on one of the streets that cross the island of Manhattan. Stan is standing on the sidewalk looking at Neil in the middle of the street as cars drive by him on either side. We can see down the street, with tall buildings on either side.
Neil has both arms raised, and says, “For four days of the year you can stand in the middle of any cross street in Manhattan and see the sunrise or sunset.”
An insert lists these days. It states: Sunrise on December 10, 7:10 a.m. EST and January 2, 7:20 a.m. EST; Sunset May 28, 6:20 p.m. EDT and July 12, 8:30 p.m. EDT.
(Also see Manhattanhenge in City of Stars.)
Neil and Stan have traveled to Grand Central Terminal. They stand among the frenetic motions of people in the grand concourse as Neil looks up and gestures toward the vaulted ceiling with stars and constellation figures drawn on it.
Neil says, “Here in Grand Central Station, people don’t stop to look up at the constellations on the ceiling. Note that the whole sky is backwards. They say they did it on purpose, but I think they just messed it up.”
Neil and Stan are now standing before the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Neil remarks, “As the sun sets over New Jersey, you can watch its red glow move up the World Trade Tower (because Earth’s shadow blots it out from the bottom). If you run up the stairs one second per floor, you’ll freeze the sunset for nearly two minutes.”
Riding on the Subway, Stan is holding onto a pole while Neil holds one of the hanging straps as commuters are seated beside them.
Neil mentions, “We live in the Milky Way among ten billion stars. We’re falling toward the Andromeda Galaxy. In seven billion years it’s going to be a spectacular train crash.”
Now we see Stan and Neil walking by the Atlas statue along Fifth Avenue at Rockefeller Center.
Neil says, “People think the North Star is the brightest in the night sky. But, often the first light you see at night is Venus, a planet. No wonder your wishes haven’t been coming true—you’ve been wishing on a planet.”
Neil and Stan are walking on the sidewalk along a busy street in the city.
Stan says, “So is that it for stars?”
Neil, pointing, says, “No. There’s one more. See, there’s Kevin Bacon.”
“Wow! You’re right!” says Stan, as he turns his head to look.