Computational

After nine months of number-crunching on a powerful supercomputer, a beautiful spiral galaxy matching our own Milky Way emerged from a computer simulation of the physics involved in galaxy formation and evolution.

UCSC is one of the national centers for research in computational astrophysics, and is host to the High Performance AstroComputing Center (HIPACC), which brings together computational research throughout the UC system, including the UC-managed national labs: LBL, LLNL, and LANL. UCSC is also host to the annual summer school in AstroComputation, run by HIPACC members.

Computing cluster administrator Shawfeng Dong (foreground) oversaw the installation and integration of the Hyades supercomputer and Huawei storage system. (Photo by C. Lagattuta)

Computing cluster administrator Shawfeng Dong (foreground) oversaw the installation and integration of the Hyades supercomputer and Huawei storage system. (Photo by C. Lagattuta)

Computational researchers at UCSC uses a variety of on-campus and off-campus resources.  The primary on-campus supercomputer used by researchers in astrophysics, physics, and planetary science is Hyades, a machine with 376 Intel Sandy Bridge Xeon CPUs (3008 x64 cores in total), 8 Nvidia K20 GPU computing accelerators, 1 Intel Xeon Phi 5110P accelerator, and 13 TB of memory, and a peak speed of 60 TFLOPS.  In addition to on-campus computing, most computational researchers at UCSC make use of off-campus supercomputing resources at national centers, including those run by the NSF, NASA, and those at the UC labs: LBL, LLNL, and LANL. UCSC researchers are among the largest users of the main supercomputer at the NASA Ames reserach center (also named Pleiades), the 4th fastest public supercomputer in the world (as of June 2009).

In the Astrophysics Department, substantial computational work is done in high energy astrophysics, galactic and extra-galactic, astrophysics, and planetary science, some of which is detailed elsewhere on this site. Enricoo Ramirez-Ruiz uses numerical simulations to explore the behavior of accretion onto compact object objects such as white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes, and to study the origin of gamma-ray bursts and thermonuclear supernovae.

In extra-galactic astrophysics and cosmology, Piero Madau and Joel Primack both use simulation to study the formation of galaxies and clusters of galaxies, attempting to understand the very structures that their colleagues down the hall are uncovering in major surveys such as DEEP. These simulations are also used to search for signs of dark matter, in collaboration with the Fermi Gamma-Ray Telescope team in the physics department.

In planetary science, Doug Lin and collaborators use radiation-hydro codes to study the opening of gaps in protoplanetary gaseous disks around young stars, which can be compared with infrared observations. Greg Laughlin does sophisticated studies of the long-term dynamics of planetary orbits around distant stars. Gary Glatzmaier uses 3D anelastic hydro codes to study the origin of magnetic fields through dynamo action in the Earth, giant planets, and the Sun.


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