Data from the Along Tract Scanning Radiometer 2 (ATSSR-2) on board the European ERS-2 satellite have been used to derive the spatial distribution of the aerosol optical depth (AOD) over Europe for August 1997. The AOD was retrieved in cloud free areas using the dual view algorithm. The results agree with co-located ground based sun-photometer data within 0.1. The AOD from ATSR-2 with a resolution of 1 x 1 km2 were averaged on a grid of 0.1° x 0.1°, to produce daily maps of the spatial aerosol distribution over Europe. A composite map of AOD over Europe was constructed by averaging all daily maps for August 1997. This composite map shows a large spatial AOD gradients with variations of a factor of 3 over a few hundreds of kilometers. The AOD at 0.555 μm for relatively clean areas is around 0.1 while in strong industrialised areas the AOD can be 0.5 or higher.