Light Pollution in the UK

The majority of the UK population now rarely gets to see the night sky. This view, which was familiar to the majority of people just a generation or two ago, is now drowned out by the light pollution associated with almost any settlement of consequence.

Since the days when the national grid started romping pylons HG Wells-like through the British countryside in the 1920’s, the levels of light pollution have been increasing decade on decade such that, even in many so-called ‘rural locations’, there is a glow in the night sky preventing a view of the stars to the majority of horizons.

A few places are still largely free from the glow of light pollution and these are the places where any self-respecting amateur or professional astronomer is likely to prefer to live if they wish to take their work home with them.

These places are mainly the genuinely rural areas of Britain and include:

Scotland
The Galloway Forest Park (The Galloway Forest Astronomical Society)
Perthshire
The Highlands away from the major settlements
Scottish /English Borders

England
North Devon and Exmoor
Romney Marsh
Kielder Forest – Officially England’s darkest place at night
North York Moors –  (Scarborough and Ryedale Astronomical Society)
Sussex Downs
North Norfolk
Lake District
Cornwall / Isles of Scilly
Shropshire and the Welsh Border country

Wales
Mid Wales (especially Powys)
North Wales and parts of Anglesey

If you are thinking of moving to an area and the level of light pollution is an important criterion, you need to go and visit at night and walk about without car headlights on in order to appreciate the depth of the light pollution in the night sky. This is the only way to spot an invasive glow over the hill that is from a hidden source. (We would recommend that you let the potential vendor know in advance or a blue flashing light could disturb the night sky!)

To get an indication of the general level of light pollution we would also recommend that you have a look online at the Dark Sky Maps which can help you determine the extent of the invasive nature of light pollution for a location. These can be found at:

www.need-less.org.uk
www.britastro.org/dark-skies/bestukastrolocation.html
www.darkskydiscovery.org.uk

04/01/11