The UK’s hotspots for night-sky watching
The British are known for complaining about the weather 30 seconds or less into any given conversation. Although the northern climate leaves Brits feeling self-deprecating about living in the UK at times, we mustn't forget the perks of living this far north, like getting top views of what the cosmos have to offer. Not only do northern European countries get the best views of the famous and elusive aurora borealis, but it is also known that Nordic air makes for clearer skies for watching the night sky.
Our latest study reveals the best UK locations for indulging in some space phenomena, analysing factors which contribute to and affect the optimum conditions for asteroid spotting, stargazing and all of the other spectacular displays the night sky has to offer.
Combining northern light sightings, average precipitation (cloud cover), observatories, dark sky locations, camping grounds and space phenomena-watching events, we’ve identified the UK’s top counties to catch the best in ‘night shows’.
Revealed as the UK’s top place to head to for the best guarantee of getting a good night’s show, is Yorkshire. The county registers the highest number of unique locations from which the northern lights have been sighted (4) and also boasts the best choice of observatories and dark-sky locations in the UK.
Ranking second overall, is Devon. Despite its higher average of rain (cloud) per year, Devon is second richest in dark-sky locations, thanks to its lower levels of light pollution. Though sightings of the aurora borealis have never been registered in the county, it is the UK’s third best host of events for night sky watching and boasts the fourth best choice of camping grounds.
Kent ranks third overall, largely due to its wealth of observatories, offering five in total. If you’re also hoping to get milder weather when going out to watch the night sky, Devon has the UK’s third mildest temperatures on average, posing a more comfortable experience when out watching meteors and gazing at stars. As far as events on offer, the county ranks 11th to, with 71 on offer until the end of 2022.
Somerset and Suffolk complete the overall top five UK locations with the best opportunities to get a good night’s show.
If catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights is your goal, after Yorkshire, your next best bet is to head to Northumberland, Lancashire or Banffshire, Scotland. Northumberland is home to three locations where the elusive aurora borealis has been spotted before, whilst Lancashire and Banffshire have both registered two locations where the lights have previously been spotted.
Ranking top three with Yorkshire once again, Northumberland and Lancashire also offer the UK’s best choice of observatories, offering six and five respectively. Kent is also home to five observatories, tying with Lancashire. Where light pollution is concerned, Yorkshire ranks as the least affected with the most number of dark-sky locations (30), followed by Devon with 28 and Cornwall which offers 26.
Cornwall and Yorkshire also excel in the camping grounds department, placing second and third respectively for the best choice of official grounds where you can spend the night under the cosmos. Overall high scorers Northumberland, Yorkshire and Devon also rank as the top three UK locations with the most night-sky watch events going on.
Looking at the calendar of astronomical events for the year which includes meteor showers, eclipses and the intersecting of planets, stars and the moon, our study also reveals the best months with the best offerings. The richest month of the remainder of Spring/Summer for space phenomena will be June, counting 21 cosmological events in total, whilst May will bring us 19 and August brings us 20l.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to travel too far north to enjoy the best ‘shows’ the night sky has to offer. Northern counties in England and Scottish counties may offer the added chance of spotting some Northern lights but should you be closer to the South, southern counties such as Devon and Cornwall will not disappoint.
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