Airborne Lightning Observatory for FEGS and TGFs (ALOFT)

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Banner showing NASA ER-2 plane

Collaboration between NASA and University of Bergen

The ALOFT campaign is a unique suborbital campaign to advance the science of high-energy radiation emissions from thunderstorms, validate existing spaceborne lightning mappers and evaluate design concepts for next-generation mappers, and study convection from a suborbital platform.

High-energy radiation from thunderstorms are:

  1. Terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs), which are short lived (few tens to hundreds of microsecond) gamma-ray flashes associated with lightning strokes

  2. Gamma-ray glows, which are long-lasting (minutes to hours) from the entire cloud.

ALOFT is a collaboration between NASA and the University of Bergen that will fly the ER-2 aircraft over tropical thunderstorms around the Gulf of Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. The payload will consist of lightning detectors, gamma-ray scintillators, and a mixture of passive and/or active microwave sensors. Supporting the flights will be a diverse ground-based network of lightning instruments spread across the region of interest. A total of 60 scientific flight hours is planned.


Principal Investigator: Nikolai Østgaard, University of Bergen, Norway
Deputy Principal Investigator: Martino Marisaldi, University of Bergen, Norway

Project Scientist: Timothy Lang, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama
Deputy Project Scientist: Mason Quick, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Aløabama



NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

Birkeland Centre for Space Science (BCSS)

Naval Research Laboratory (NRL)


* FEGs = Fly´s Eye GLM Simulator