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Stars align for University’s OAM recipient

woman into the telescope
Ms Burton will travel to Government House in Sydney to receive her OAM in a ceremony later this year.

A University of Southern Queensland PhD candidate has been named a 2023 Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) recipient for her service to science, in particular astronomy.

With a long and glittering career in space education, Donna Burton’s work has seen her traverse the country, making scientific discoveries and teaching others about the marvels of the night sky.

Ms Burton, currently completing a PhD in astronomy at the University, said news of the OAM had come as a surprise.

“It has been very humbling to receive an OAM, especially because I get to do what I love and share my passion,” Ms Burton said.

“To me, astronomy brings us all together; we are all one under one sky.”

Ms Burton’s interest in all things celestial began at an early age.

“I grew up in Queensland, where my dad was a drover. We travelled a lot, eventually ending up in the bush,” she said.

“That’s where I fell in love with the sky – we had wonderful dark skies.”

After completing a Bachelor of Science Majoring in Computing at the University, Ms Burton decided to continue with her studies, embarking on a Masters in Research (Astronomy).

From here, her journey was written in the stars.

For the past two decades, Ms Burton has worked to advance and educate on astronomy, with the discovery of two new comets among her list of achievements.

She now runs a successful stargazing business from her base in Coonabarabran, NSW, while completing her PhD remotely

“I am focusing on the emerging Astro-tourism market in Australia and the need for dark sky preservation for my PhD project,” she said.

“Particularly how citizen science and public education in reducing light pollution can assist research astronomers.

“Light pollution doesn’t just affect how we see the sky, but it can also impact our health and the ecosystem.

“Children are growing up in our cities who don’t get to experience the marvel of the milky way.

“Luckily, I get school groups up to visit, and I get to share the beauty of the night sky and the importance of a career in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

“While receiving awards is terrific, it has also been very fulfilling to see the students who have completed work experience with us now studying engineering and applying for jobs with NASA.”

Ms Burton will travel to Government House in Sydney to receive her OAM in a ceremony later this year.