For International Women’s Day 2022 we’re celebrating the journeys and skills of a wide range of Astronomers
I stumbled across Trevor Jones (Astro backyard) deep space pictures a few years back. I was completely mesmerised by his images and could not believe this was taken by somebody from their backyard! I thought I’d give it a go with the gear I had at the time which was just a standard DSLR. After studying how to obtain the light unable to be seen with the naked eye, through stacking multiple long exposures, I became addicted.
As a child growing up in the Australian outback with the night sky as her ‘tv’, Donna ‘the astronomer’ Burton discovered the joys of the night sky. “The sky changes every single night; every season and I would look up at the stars and make up my own constellations and stories about what was going on”.
Little did she know then know that her passion for the night sky would lead to a career as an astronomer.
Having received her first telescope back in the late 1990s, she became hooked on showing people the sky! Since then, Donna has been introducing others to the stars, teaching them what they can learn from the night sky, and fostering their love for astronomy.
For many years, Donna has worked as a Telescope Operator, technical support officer, support astronomer on research telescopes, training students and visiting astronomers how to use Australian National University’s (ANU) telescopes.
While working on the Uppsala telescope at Siding Spring on the Near-Earth Object Survey, she became the first Australian woman to discover two comets.
She is currently completing her PhD and is a researcher and Adjunct Associate Professor at USQ.
These days she is the Astronomer in Charge at Milroy Observatory and is restoring the original Boller and Chivens 40inch telescope from Siding Spring to
its former glory.
She also trains young people in astronomy outreach and operates nightly tours at Milroy near Coonabarabran NSW.
Donna has been featured in the RM Williams OUTBACK magazine 2021, the Great Australians: 20 Living Legends of the Bush 2019 and the CLASSIC Agenda Heroes publication. This year Donna was selected to be an Australia Day Ambassador for the Lachlan Shire
She encourages children and young people from all over the world to understand and marvel at the wonder of the night skies through her work with ‘Skype a Scientist’ program and the International Group ‘Astronomers Without Borders’. Donna is also an engaging and informative speaker to schools, corporate and community groups, amateur astronomy gatherings, Astrofests, seniors’ groups and a guest lecturer on several cruise lines.
Find out more:
It’s hard to pick a favourite shot from all my past efforts – even the ASNSW prize winners -– the Venus transit of the Sun, that I took at TARA high school while showing the transit to students and in between the rain and clouds, my solar flare timelapses, Comet Lovejoy where I captured galaxies and a meteor with it, the Comet Wirtanen timelapse that I took, the widefield shots of multiple galaxies, the horsehead nebula – a bucket list photo for me since I saw it as a child which blew me away. They are all my past favourites and you can see an assortment of them at www.bigspark.com.au. My future favourites, well that’s another story. I am upgrading the TARDIS
Yes, I said TARDIS – well if you’re going to build a waterproof box for the telescope at home you might as well paint it like the TARDIS because the whole galaxy is inside right?). I have built an observatory in the country and I’m looking at making it possible to image more often by making the roof there robotic and telescope and camera controlled from home. I can get more imaging done that way and after the hiatus that was/is the covid pandemic, I’m really looking forward to getting back into it.
If I had any advice for new starters – it’s never too late to start. Just head off to the beach, lie on the sand (with binoculars if you have them) and look up – or if you’re more serious, join a club. The ASNSW is a great one, and we have quite a few prominent female members too. Ask lots of questions and don’t be intimidated by anyone. I would recommend getting your equipment at dedicated Astronomy shops like Bintel – because they are super helpful and knowledgeable when you buy your gear. The equipment and software available these days are great, and easier to learn, so there is no point in department store discount telescope buying. There is a dedicated community at www.Iceinspace.com.au as well so you can reach out there too, us amateurs love to share what we know and are always happy to help.
When researching which binoculars were the best for visual astronomy, I came across a video by Astrobiscuit on YouTube and how he managed to take a photo of the Andromeda Galaxy with just his smartphone and binoculars. I was so amazed with this idea and just had to try it for myself! After many, very shaky, photos of our Moon, Saturn, and Jupiter through my binoculars, I knew I was hooked into this wonderful hobby of astrophotography.
The idea that I could explore our universe from my backyard was incredibly exciting! Before I knew it, I had my very own telescope, computerized telescope mount, and dedicated astronomy camera and I was out imaging every chance I had. By allowing our cameras to see these objects in space we otherwise wouldn’t be able to see, astrophotography allows us to personally connect with the universe, which is something incredibly special.
Clear skies everyone!
I was going to take a recent photo of me and my amazing most recent telescope but how could I go past this moment. This was when I recent very first telescope for Christmas from bintel and what a journey this has started. From hearing my little one ask for a telescope for Christmas and thinking, you know what I would love a telescope too, to it sparking my interest and absolute love for astronomy to becoming the Vice President of the northern Sydney astronomical society. How my little hobby has grown into a wonderful passion in my life. I still remember the very first time I took this out with almost no idea how to actually use it. The NSAS were just so friendly and so genuinely happy to help. From there my scopes have slowly been upgraded with bigger and better things (of course for a very small price if you ask my husband).
But the people I have met along the way are people I am so happy to now call my lifelong friends. I love meeting people with a like-minded passion like mine while discovering our amazing universe out there. Whether it’s learning about amazing things at our monthly speaker nights or getting hands on our observation nights to going on our little adventures around NSW at our star parties. Thank you bintel for founding my hobby and supporting our astronomical community!
Caroline is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Blue Mountains Stargazing, herself and her fiancé Dimitri, Astrophysicist run stargazing tours at Wentworth Falls. They also run Wine Tasting Stargazing in the Megalong Valley. She’s strongly passionate about creating wow moments for their guests looking up to the stars.
I’ve been fascinated with the universe since I was a child. But my astro journey didn’t begin until 2020 when I purchased my first telescope, a 6inch Newtonian. I have been a photographer for over a decade. Primarily photographing portraits and weddings, but occasionally dabbling with widefield Milky Way landscape images. I had seen other people’s photos on social media of nebulae and stars and dreamt of doing the same. I was excited to combine my love of photography and my fascination with the universe. Curious about what I would learn along the way. My first attempts were complete failures. I struggled with polar alignment for the longest time. But everyone in the astro-community was so helpful. After asking a lot of questions and watching a lot of Youtube, with the help of S.T.E.L.A, a women’s astro-community, and fellow astrophotographers Mark, Ben and James. I eventually had my first successful session.
A few months later, I entered Skywatchers Astrophotographer of the Year 2021 Awards. I received a bronze award in the deep sky category. I was also the only female finalist. I began contributing my images to an astronomy article for a local magazine in 2021, The Skies above Bribie. I took authorship of the column in 2022. My first article will be published in March, which is very exciting. I hope with my successes, I can encourage other women to get involved and that my failures will encourage women to be unafraid to put themselves out there. I look forward to the future, when history will be made, as the first woman walks on the moon. And following this great achievement, I am certain, more women will become recognised for their astronomy contributions.
Hi, I’m Mary Adam-Dubbioso, and I’m an astronomer and astronomy lecturer with the University of South Australia and the Adelaide Planetarium. I fell in love with astronomy at a young age due to the Arabic star names, which is the language my parents speak. I took up astro imaging 6 years ago and haven’t looked back. I run a ‘Women In Astronomy’ group here in South Australia.
HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY!