Bay Area Scientist's Work To Map Earth's Lightning Paying Dividends Beyond Raw Data

Lockheed Martin scientist Samantha Edington developed the Geostationary Lightning Mapping Instrument now aboard two satellites orbiting the earth, and which provide a new perspective of our planet. Mary Lee reports. (4/23/21)

Video Transcript

ELIZABETH COOK: On this Earth Day, scientists who are studying our planet say they are constantly discovering something new about Earth. As our morning meteorologist Mary Lee reports, their findings are providing a deeper understanding and appreciation for the planet we call home.

- Research scientist Samantha Edgington leads a special team at Lockheed Martin's Advanced Technology Center. Samantha designed and built the geostationary lightning mapping instrument, which is now on two NOAA weather satellites currently in space. We met her a few years ago when she gave us a tour of the Palo Alto lab. The instrument she created provides crucial and continuous weather observations by tracking a storm's development in real time, 24/7.

- What we're talking about, it's kind of like your baby, right? You've seen it--

- Yes.

- --grow, and progress, and all of that.

SAMANTHA EDGINGTON: I guess it was some ideas, and some PowerPoint charts, and then we started actually designing and building it. And then it went off to become part of the spacecraft, and then we launch the spacecraft. And it was like graduating college, going off and got a job, and now, it's helping people, sending data down.

- Samantha recently shared with me how her work observing the Earth's atmosphere gave her a unique perspective on our planet. She spoke about the moment she saw the first images of Earth from her instrument in space.

- Then when we opened the door, and we got our first images, it was sunrise over the southern Atlantic, and it was-- the Earth is just so amazingly beautiful. Knowing that something I touched with my hands is in space, taking data, and I got to see even just the raw images are so beautiful makes you understand not only that your place in the universe, you know, you're not the center of the universe. But you're certainly somewhere very special.

- Samantha also spoke about not just her passion for her work, but her passion for our incredible planet.

- Every once in a while, you kind of look up and realize that what you're doing is so important. Because, if we don't observe the earth, and take data, and understand what's happening, we can't do the right thing to preserve it and help it.

MARY LEE: It was amazing talking to Samantha. She says there was still a lot of work that needs to be done. She wants to encourage our young people to pursue a career in engineering and science doing their part to protect our planet. For KPIX, I'm Mary Lee.