Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Lights On Afterschool. Lights On Afterschool Wonders, “How many lights does it take to light up the Empire State Building?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Lights On Afterschool!

Have you ever visited the Big Apple? Did you see the Statue of Liberty? Catch a show on Broadway? There are so many sights to see in New York City. One of the most popular, though, is possibly the most famous office building in the world. What are we talking about? The Empire State Building, of course!

When it opened in 1931, the Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world. At 1,454 feet tall, it has 102 floors. Would you like to visit the 102nd floor? You’d climb 1,860 steps to get there! Luckily, you could also an elevator.

Visitors still stand in awe of the Empire State Building’s size. However, its most striking feature may not be its height. It’s the building’s tower lights that draw the most attention. They shine to mark special holidays, events, and causes.

The Empire State Building’s tower first lit up in November 1932. As New Yorkers watched the sky, they saw a white beam of light. This told everyone in a 50-mile radius that Franklin Delano Roosevelt had been elected President of the United States.

Since then, the tower’s lights have been a symbol of New York City. Many staring up at the building might WONDER just how many lights it takes to light up the Empire State Building. Originally, the tower used a single searchlight. Later, it upgraded to revolving beacons. In 1977, a new lighting system was installed with 500 lamps. Another renovation in 2012 installed 68,000 LED bulbs to light up the tower!

Today, the tower’s light also changes colors. This happened for the first time in 1976. That year, colored floodlights shone red, white, and blue in celebration of America’s bicentennial.

Those floodlights allowed the tower to shine in nine different colors. With the installation of the new LED bulbs, the tower can now light up in over 16 million colors!

With all those choices, how do they decide which color the Empire State Building should be every day? Well, some days are easy. For example, the tower always lights up in red, white, and blue for American holidays like July 4 and Memorial Day.

However, other days are harder to decide. There’s an application people can fill out if they’d like to see the Empire State Building light up in honor of a holiday or cause. The chosen events are then put on a calendar. 

For instance, the lights were red, white, and green on September 15, 2018, to honor Mexican Independence Day. They shone blue and white for the eight days of Hanukkah in 2018. They even lit up in blue and yellow on October 25, 2018, in honor of Lights On Afterschool!

Some days, the Empire State Building doesn’t light up at all. In these cases, it’s honoring a tragedy. The tower was dark on July 9, 2018, for those experiencing intense flooding and landslides in Japan. This happened again on September 18, 2018, to honor those affected by Hurricane Florence and Typhoon Mangkhut.

Otherwise, the Empire State Building Lights up every day from sunset until 2 am. Would you like to see the giant skyscraper light up? What colors would you choose?

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.W.1, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2

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Tomorrow's Wonder of the Day takes a closer look at something that affects all of our lives in some way, sooner or later.