Cosmic Simulation: Where no Supercomputer has gone before.


Simulating the Universe from its birth to present day – no, not on a holo-deck or in a computer game, but through a high-fidelity model on Europe’s most powerful supercomputers – is what Prof. Volker Springel and his team at the Max-Planck-Institute for Astrophysics in Garching, Germany, have been using an allocation of 20 million core hours on the French Tier-0 system CURIE for.

To map the entire known Universe, including the “web” of spiral and disc-galaxies, Prof. Springel used new finite-volume hydrodynamics code called AREPO, which he wrote himself. In 2012 he used a PRACE Preparatory Access Type B allocation (200.000 core-hours on Curie Thin Nodes @ GENCI@CEA, France, and 50.000 core-hours on Hermit @ GCS@HLRS, Germany) to improve hybrid parallelisation of this code as well as his parallel cosmological Tree/SPH code called GADGET, which is publicly available.

Under the 4th PRACE Call for Proposals he received 20 million core hours on CURIE @ GENCI@CEA, France for his project entitled LUCIDUS – Cosmological simulations of galaxy formation on a moving mesh, in order to undertake this gargantuan scientific task. With collaborators from Germany and the United States, the project was an example of how international co-operation can yield far greater advancements than stand-alone national research.

“Like the combined power of supernovae and black holes created new galaxies and stars, the combined power of PRACE Tier-0 HPC systems and excellence science creates great advancements for humanity,” said Catherine Rivière, Chair of the PRACE Council. “This is the biggest cosmology simulation ever made and it shows that PRACE is at the heart of HPC supported science and research,” she added proudly.

The astounding results of Prof. Volker’s research were published on 7 May 2014 in edition #509 of Nature, the international weekly journal of science.

This article was first published on on Friday 9 May 2014.

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