Supercomputer installed at RIT among the world's fastest

July 12, 2005

One of the fastest supercomputers in the world and the first ever designed specifically to study the evolution of star clusters and galaxies is now in operation at Rochester Institute of Technology.

The new computer, built by David Merritt, professor of physics in RIT's College of Science, uses a novel architecture to reach speeds much higher than that of standard supercomputers of comparable size.

Known as gravitySimulator, the computer is designed to solve the "gravitational N-body problem". It simulates how a galaxy evolves as the stars move about each other in response to their own gravity. This problem is computationally demanding because there are so many interactions to calculate requiring a tremendous amount of computer time. As a result, standard supercomputers can only carry out such calculations with thousands of stars at a time.

The new computer achieves much greater performance by incorporating special accelerator boards, called GRAPEs or Gravity Pipelines, into a standard Beowulf-like cluster. The gravitySimulator, which is one of only two machines of its kind in the world, achieves a top speed of 4 Teraflops, or four trillion calculations per second, making it one of the 100 fastest computers in the world, and it can handle up to 4 million stars at once. The computer cost over $500,000 to construct and was funded by RIT, the National Science Foundation, and NASA. Since gravitySimulator was installed in the spring, Merritt and his associates have been using it to study the binary black hole problem- what happens when two galaxies collide and their central, supermassive black holes form a bound pair.

"Eventually the two black holes are expected to merge into a single, larger black hole," Merritt says. "But before that happens, they interact with the stars around them, ejecting some and swallowing others. We think we see the imprints of this process in nearby galaxies, but so far no one has carried out simulations with high enough precision to test the theory."

Merritt and his team will also use gravitySimulator to study the dynamics of the central Milky Way Galaxy in order to understand the origin of our own black hole.

Merritt sees the gravitySimulator as an important example of RIT's development as a major scientific research institute. "Our unique combination of in-class instruction, experiential learning and research will be a major asset in the continued development of astrophysics and other research disciplines here at RIT," Merritt says. "The gravitySimulator is the perfect example of the cutting edge work we are already doing and will be a major stepping stone for the development of future scientific research."
-end-


Rochester Institute of Technology

Related Black Hole Articles from Brightsurf:

Black hole or no black hole: On the outcome of neutron star collisions
A new study lead by GSI scientists and international colleagues investigates black-hole formation in neutron star mergers.

The black hole always chirps twice: New clues deciphering the shape of black holes
A team of gravitational-wave scientists led by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav) reveal that when two black holes collide and merge, the remnant black hole 'chirps' not once, but multiple times, emitting gravitational waves--intense ripples in the fabric space and time--that inform us about its shape.

Wobbling shadow of the M87 black hole
New analysis from the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) Collaboration reveals the behavior of the supermassive black hole in the center of the M87 galaxy across multiple years, indicating the crescent-like shadow feature appears to be wobbling.

How to have a blast like a black hole
Scientists at Osaka University have created magnetized-plasma conditions similar to those near a black hole using very intense laser pulses.

Black hole collision may have exploded with light
Astronomers have seen what appears to the first light ever detected from a black hole merger.

Black hole's heart still beating
The first confirmed heartbeat of a supermassive black hole is still going strong more than ten years after first being observed.

Black hole team discovers path to razor-sharp black hole images
A team of researchers have published new calculations that predict a striking and intricate substructure within black hole images from extreme gravitational light bending.

Planets around a black hole?
Theoreticians in two different fields defied the common knowledge that planets orbit stars like the Sun.

Black hole mergers: Cooking with gas
Gravitational wave detectors are finding black hole mergers in the universe at the rate of one per week.

Going against the flow around a supermassive black hole
At the center of a galaxy called NGC 1068, a supermassive black hole hides within a thick doughnut-shaped cloud of dust and gas.

Read More: Black Hole News and Black Hole Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.