Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Supercomputer to Simulate Extreme Stellar Physics

05.05.2008
Robert Fisher and Cal Jordan are among a team of scientists who will expend 22 million computational hours during the next year on one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, simulating an event that takes less than five seconds.

Fisher and Jordan require such resources in their field of extreme science. Their work at the University of Chicago’s Center for Astrophysical Thermonuclear Flashes explores how the laws of nature unfold in natural phenomena at unimaginably extreme temperatures and pressures. The Blue Gene/P supercomputer at Argonne National Laboratory will serve as one of their primary tools for studying exploding stars.

“The Argonne Blue Gene/P supercomputer is one of the largest and fastest supercomputers in the world,” said Fisher, a Flash Center Research Scientist. “It has massive computational resources that are not available on smaller platforms elsewhere.”

Desktop computers typically contain only one or two processors; Blue Gene/P has more than 160,000 processors. What a desktop computer could accomplish in a thousand years, the Blue Gene/P supercomputer can perform in three days. “It’s a different scale of computation. It’s computation at the cutting edge of science,” Fisher said.

Access to Blue Gene/P, housed at the Argonne Advanced Leadership Computing Facility, was made possible by a time allocation from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment program. The Flash Center was founded in 1997 with a grant from the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Advanced Simulation and Computing. The NNSA’s Academic Strategic Alliance Program has sustained the Flash Center with funding and computing resources throughout its history.

The support stems from the DOE’s interest in the physics that take place at extremes of concentrated energy, including exploding stars called supernovas. The Flash Center will devote its computer allocation to studying Type Ia supernovas, in which temperatures reach billions of degrees.

A better understanding of Type Ia supernovas is critical to solving the mystery of dark energy, one of the grandest challenges facing today’s cosmologists. Dark energy is somehow causing the universe to expand at an accelerating rate.

Cosmologists discovered dark energy by using Type Ia supernovas as cosmic measuring devices. All Type Ia supernovas display approximately the same brightness, so scientists could assess the distance of the exploding stars’ home galaxies accordingly. Nevertheless, these supernovas display a variation of approximately 15 percent.

“To really understand dark energy, you have to nail this variation to about 1 percent,” said Jordan, a Flash Center Research Associate.

The density of white dwarf stars, from which Type Ia supernovas evolve, is equally extreme. When stars the size of the sun reach the ends of their lives, they have shed most of their mass and leave behind an inert core about the size of the moon. “If one were able to scoop out a cubic centimeter—roughly a teaspoon—of material from that white dwarf, it would weigh a thousand metric tons,” Fisher explained. “These are incredibly dense objects.”

Type Ia supernovas are believed to only occur in binary star systems, those in which two stars orbit one another. When a binary white dwarf has gravitationally pulled enough matter off its companion star, an explosion ensues.

“This takes place over hundreds of millions of years,” Jordan said. “As the white dwarf becomes more and more dense with matter compressing on top of it, an ignition takes place in its core. This ignition burns through the star and eventually leads to a huge explosion.”

The Flash team conducts whole-star simulations on a supercomputer at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. At Argonne, the team will perform a related set of simulations. “You can think of them as a nuclear ‘flame in a box’ in a small chunk of the full white dwarf,” Fisher said.

In the simulations at Argonne, the team will analyze how burning occurs in four possible scenarios that lead to Type Ia supernovas. Burning in a white dwarf can occur as a deflagration or as a detonation.

“Imagine a pool of gasoline and throw a match on it. That kind of burning across the pool of gasoline is a deflagration,” Jordan said. “A detonation is simply if you were to light a stick of dynamite and allow it to explode.”

In the Flash Center scenario, deflagration starts off-center of the star’s core. The burning creates a hot bubble of less dense ash that pops out the side due to buoyancy, like a piece of Styrofoam submerged in water. But gravity holds the ash close to the surface of the white dwarf. “This fast-moving ash stays confined to the surface, flows around the white dwarf and collides on the opposite side of breakout,” Jordan said.

The collision triggers a detonation that incinerates the star. There are, however, three other scenarios to consider. “To understand how the simulations relate to the actual supernovae, we have to do more than a thousand different simulations this year to vary the parameters within the models to see how the parameters affect the supernovae,” Jordan said.

Steve N. Koppes | newswise
Further information:
http://news.uchicago.edu/

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy under real ambient pressure conditions
28.06.2017 | National Institutes of Natural Sciences

nachricht New photoacoustic technique detects gases at parts-per-quadrillion level
28.06.2017 | Brown University

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Supersensitive through quantum entanglement

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy under real ambient pressure conditions

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Mice provide insight into genetics of autism spectrum disorders

28.06.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>