You know about Stonehenge, and maybe even so-called “Manhattanhenge,” but what about “Scrippshenge”?
Stonehenge in England was built between 4,500 and 5,000 years ago so its giant stones would, among other things, frame the sun on solstices. On those dates, the sun’s rays shine between the stones and illuminate the formation’s interior area.
A similar event, first called “Manhattanhenge” by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, occurs in Manhattan, New York City, twice in May and twice in July each year. On varying days, the sunset lines up perfectly with Manhattan’s east-to-west streets. When that happens, anyone with a clear view toward New Jersey sees the sun perched on the horizon as it’s framed by skyscrapers and other buildings.
Scrippshenge also occurs on dates near the summer solstice each year: once in May and again in August. It takes place when the setting sun is framed above the ocean and between the pier pilings under the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier at the University of California’s San Diego.
You can see photos and videos of Scrippshenge throughout social media, such as this tweet from UC San Diego:
Scrippshenge from last night, Aug 8, 2022, at @Scripps_Ocean.— UC San Diego (@UCSanDiego) August 9, 2022
Twice a year the sun sets perfectly to align with Scripps Pier. If you missed it last night, you may still be able to catch it this evening if it’s not too cloudy. 🌅 #SanDiego #LaJolla #UCSanDiego pic.twitter.com/GyrPjxMow5
“Scrippshenge from last night, August 8, 2022,” UC San Diego wrote on Twitter. “Twice a year the sun sets perfectly to align with Scripps Pier.”
Why The Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier Is Important
The Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego is located on 177 acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean in La Jolla, California, about 20 minutes from downtown San Diego. It’s also home to the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier, one of the largest active research piers in the world.
The pier, built in 1916 and then reconstructed in the late 1980s, is used for research and other scientific projects.
“The Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier is an icon of UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a vital research facility that houses numerous environmental monitoring stations and enables small boat and scientific diving operations,” according to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “Data on ocean conditions and plankton taken from the pier provide an unparalleled source of information on changes in the coastal Pacific Ocean.”
For instance, small boats are often launched from the pier “to support nearshore research, supply feed for marine organisms at Birch Aquarium at Scripps, and for scientific diving training operations,” the institution says. The pier is also used as a platform to mount instruments for research as well as a continuous sampling station for projects such as a daily seawater surface temperature monitoring program.
Considering that there are so many scientific instruments on the pier, the pier is generally not open to the public.
When To See Scrippshenge
“I always calculate the alignment for Scrippshenge as being about 47 days before and after the summer solstice, which gives you sometime around May 4–6 and August 6–8 this year,” Jeff Dillon, web content strategist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, told TravelAwaits. “But I recommend that photographers use a tool such as The Photographer’s Ephemeris to confirm when they want to come, as the sun crosses the end of the pier at a different height each day.”
However, the best chance to see the phenomenon will likely be in August. That’s because in early May, “the horizon is more likely to be obscured by San Diego’s ‘May Gray/June Gloom’ marine layer,” Dillon continued. May Gray and June Gloom days are when meteorological factors case a thick fog and overcast skies along the central and southern California coast.
How To See Scrippshenge
Scrippshenge isn’t a new occurrence – and it isn’t a secret either. In fact, if you want to see Scrippshenge, you’ll need to plan ahead because it is so popular that space under the pier is limited.
“The space beneath the pier has also gotten increasingly crowded over the past decade,” Dillon said. “Some photographers arrive several hours ahead of sunset to claim a spot on the centerline.”