From International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research: “Supercomputer time to explore how black holes and jets have changed our Universe”

From International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research

April 23, 2020

A/Prof. Chris Power (ICRAR / University of Western Australia)
+61 478 906 421

Kirsten Gottschalk (Media Contact, ICRAR)
+61 438 361 876

Fujistu Lenovo GADI supercomputer at the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) at the Australian National University (ANU)

Astronomers have been awarded 45 million units of supercomputing time to study the influence of supermassive black holes on their host galaxies.

The team from WA, Tasmania and the UK were awarded the time on Australia’s largest research supercomputing facility, the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI Australia) in Canberra.

They will use it to combine computer models of black holes—and the jets that shoot out of them—with large-scale cosmological simulations of the Universe.

Associate Professor Chris Power, from the University of Western Australia node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), is leading the research.

He said black holes can have a profound effect on how galaxies evolve.

“Black holes produce very powerful jets and winds,” he said.

“We know they can stop stars forming, and create the different kinds of galaxies we see in the Universe today.

“But the problem is that we have a very cartoonish understanding of how this process works.”

The researchers will use the supercomputer time to study how powerful jets from black holes impact their larger galactic and cosmic environments.

They will combine sophisticated cosmological simulations of galaxy formation, developed at ICRAR, with detailed models of black hole jets, developed by Dr Stanislav Shabala and PhD student Patrick Yates at the University of Tasmania.

The team also includes researchers from the University of Hertfordshire.

Associate Professor Power said running the simulations on a laptop computer would take almost 5,000 years.

“On the supercomputer, we’ll probably get results in a couple of days,” he said.

“So we want to be able to run hundreds of these kinds of simulations. We’re basically treating them as experiments.”

The astronomers will tweak their models with each simulation, improving our understanding of how black holes change their host galaxies.

“It’s a bit like when we go into a lab and we’re pouring combinations of chemicals into test tubes—we can see what kinds of things happen,” Associate Professor Power said.

The study will be one of the first to run on NCI’s brand new supercomputer Gadi, and will be undertaken over the next six to nine months.

It was one of four awarded time through the Australasian Leadership Computing Grants program, which attracts bids from researchers all over the country.

The other projects will conduct research in global climate modelling, decadal climate forecasts and combustion for low emissions gas turbines. More at NCI Australia.

See the full article here .


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ICRAR is an equal joint venture between Curtin University and The University of Western Australia with funding support from the State Government of Western Australia. The Centre’s headquarters are located at UWA, with research nodes at both UWA and the Curtin Institute for Radio Astronomy (CIRA).
ICRAR has strong support from the government of Australia and is working closely with industry and the astronomy community, including CSIRO and the Australian Telescope National Facility, <a

Playing a key role in the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, the world's biggest ground-based telescope array.

Attracting some of the world’s leading researchers in radio astronomy, who will also contribute to national and international scientific and technical programs for SKA and ASKAP.
Creating a collaborative environment for scientists and engineers to engage and work with industry to produce studies, prototypes and systems linked to the overall scientific success of the SKA, MWA and ASKAP.

Murchison Widefield Array,SKA Murchison Widefield Array, Boolardy station in outback Western Australia, at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO)

A Small part of the Murchison Widefield Array

Enhancing Australia’s position in the international SKA program by contributing to the development process for the SKA in scientific, technological and operational areas.
Promoting scientific, technical, commercial and educational opportunities through public outreach, educational material, training students and collaborative developments with national and international educational organisations.
Establishing and maintaining a pool of emerging and top-level scientists and technologists in the disciplines related to radio astronomy through appointments and training.
Making world-class contributions to SKA science, with emphasis on the signature science themes associated with surveys for neutral hydrogen and variable (transient) radio sources.
Making world-class contributions to SKA capability with respect to developments in the areas of Data Intensive Science and support for the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory.