NASA's supercomputer lets scientists' rocket way back in the universe

Astrophysicists ran a program for 18 days on Pleiades, the 7th most powerful supercomputer in the world to get a picture of the universe

nasa pleiades
NASA's supercomputer Pleiades is sort of a reverse time machine.

Astrophysicists recently ran a program for 18 days on Pleiades, the  7th most powerful supercomputer in the world,  to get a simulated view of how galaxies and other very space large structures developed since the Big Bang.

The researchers ran what's known as "Bolshoi" simulation code which lets researchers simulate how largest galaxies and galaxy structures in the universe were formed billions of years ago. 

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From NASA: "The Bolshoi simulation models the distribution of dark matter across a span of one billion light years to better understand how structures like galaxies formed in the early universe. Dark matter -- a mysterious substance with immense gravity that does not interact with normal matter and cannot be directly observed ¬ makes up roughly 25%of the universe."

The Bolshoi program uses data gathered from NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) mission which measured the faint "cosmic microwave background" left over from the Big Bang -- the signature of early matter in the universe -- to trace the eventual formation of large structures. The universe is approximately 13.7 billion years old. Pleiades' new graphics processing units from NVIDIA, Corp. have greatly sped up parts of the Bolshoi calculations, NASA stated.

Astrophysicists at New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico and the University of California High-Performance Astrocomputing Center, Santa Cruz, Calif. ran their code on Pleiades for 18 days, consumed millions of hours of computer time, and generating enormous amounts of data,  NASA said.

"Being able to tap into the power and speed of Pleiades has improved the Bolshoi simulation in every respect," said Joel Primack, director of the University of California High-Performance AstroComputing Center and co-investigator on two studies reporting on the simulation results, slated for publication in the Astrophysics Journal in October. "In addition, ultra-high-resolution images and animations created by NAS visualization experts have provided the basis for imaging and interpreting our latest simulation results."

NASA's Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) Division at NASA's Ames Research Center is home to Pleiades which  runs on three generations of Intel-based processors with varying memory per core across two generations of InfiniBand technology.  In fact NASA says The NAS facility continues to feature the world's largest InfiniBand® interconnect network with 11,648 nodes and more than 63 miles of cabling -- long enough to reach the "frontier of space" from the surface of Earth.

 The latest hex-core Intel Xeon 5600 and earlier quad-core 5570 processors run at a speed of 2.93 GHz, while the original Pleiades 5400 quad-core processors run at 3 GHz., NASA said.

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8  

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