03Jun2018

The Fastest Astronomy Supercomputer Comes Online in Japan

The supercomputer for astronomy “ATERUI II”.

The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan has started up the world’s fastest supercomputer for astronomy to simulate phenomena that cannot be observed by telescope.

The giant parallel supercomputer, calculating three quadrillion operations per second, will create more detailed models of the cosmos than any before. Observatory officials on Friday gave the media access to the supercomputer, Aterui II, on its campus in Iwate Prefecture, northeastern Japan. The officials say the computer is capable of making 3,000 trillion calculations per second. Simulation astronomy is becoming more important to solve the mysteries of the universe.

The supercomputer will be powerful enough to model the gravitational forces of all 200 billion or more stars in the Milky Way, something previous computers could only do by grouping stars together and modeling the gravity of each group.  Wherever discrepancies exist, there could lurk undiscovered astrophysics.

The front view of ATERUI II, which has the name in stylized Japanese (阿弖流為 弐) written on the housing, designed by artist Jun Kosaka. NAOJ

The officials say the supercomputer can recreate hundreds of billions of stars in the Galaxy to find out how they came into being and their structures. They also say Aterui II is capable of simulating a supernova explosion. It’s an explosion that occurs at the end of a massive star’s life and considered the largest energy release in the universe.

The supercomputer is connected to the observatory’s headquarters in Tokyo. Researchers whose projects are adopted by the observatory can use it for free. Professor Eiichiro Kokubo of the observatory says the supercomputer enables researchers to run simulations under more realistic conditions.

He says he expects that the researchers will be able to discover astronomical phenomena that are inaccessible by conventional theorizing and observation.  Adapted: Popular Mechanics

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