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The Milwaukee Urban Observatory brings together members of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Physics, Geography and Architecture departments to apply the techniques of astronomical imaging and analysis to the distribution of light in the city.

Artificial light is essential to the safety and productivity of the modern city, but growing attention is now being paid to the negative consequences of the loss of darkness at night, with particular focus on a variety of risks to human health. While many studies have examined city lights via snapshots from satellites, relatively few have analyzed patterns of light with both high spatial and temporal resolution. The Milwaukee Urban Observatory will image the artificial lights of the city thousands of times per night over a period of weeks and months, and apply techniques used for the analysis of astronomical data to study the spatial and temporal variation of these sources.  Milwaukee is a city with strong inequalities along multiple intersecting axes; we will assess whether patterns in the intensity, concentration, or time variability of light sources relate to other variables such as race, income and health.

Team Members

Woonsup Choi  Geography
Dawn Erb  Physics
Ryan Holifield  Geography
David Kaplan  Physics
Arijit Sen  Architecture


The Milwaukee Urban Observatory is supported by the UWM Office of Research through the Collaborative Research Team Development Program.