Location, location...
The best place for astronomy in the UK

The map below indicates the best places in UK from where to see the rest of our Universe.

The best places are colour coded white, with the worst places colour coded dark yellow. The dark grey areas have little light pollution but few clear nights per year. The bright yellow areas indicate areas with many clear skies, but suffer greatly from light pollution. In addition, air traffic routes are also highlighted.

The details...

• Light pollution

» Light pollution is artificial light that needlessly shines up into the sky. This wasted light reflects off the atmosphere, and back towards the ground, which in many cases drowns out all but the brightest of stars. The map of light pollution, here colour coded yellow for severe light pollution and brown for medium light pollution, has been adapted from the CPRE Night Blight campaign.

• The weather!

» Of course, the more clear nights per year the better for astronomy. The average number of clear nights can be estimated from the average number of sunshine hours (clear days) per year, maps of which are available from the UK MET office. This can vary by a factor of two, depending on where you live in the UK. The highlands of Scotland have the fewest clear nights, with less than 1200 hours of sunshine per year (colour coded black), and the entire southern and south eastern coastlines have the most, with over 1600 hours of sunshine per year (colour coded white; mid-ranges are colour coded blue). Note that the UK MET Office only provides weather data for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland; there is no weather data for the rest of Ireland.

Weather and light pollution: Click image for larger version

• Aircraft

» High altitude aircraft leave behind turbulent contrails. These contrails, which spread out to cover huge areas over time, dissipate only slowly. It is very difficult to get a sharp view of the heavens through aircraft contrails, and so for this reason, details of air traffic over the UK has also been added to the map. The maps of aircraft traffic are taken from the CPRE's Plane Crazy campaign.

Weather, light pollution and air traffic: Click image for larger version