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Supercomputing Solar Assaults

Ropes-Field-Line-300x246Over at DEIXIS, Mike May writes that researchers are using Cray supercomputers to forecast the space storms that disrupt and damage communications worldwide. At the heart of the problem is a concept called magnetic reconnection, which occurs when the Sun emits high energy plasma that penetrates the Earth’s magnetic shield.

Since magnetic reconnection tends to occur in thin areas, scientists want to “couple the dynamics of the large scale to those thin areas,” says Vadim Roytershteyn, a plasma physicist at SciberQuest in Del Mar, Calif. “To obtain the full description, one must simultaneously resolve the large-scale dynamics and the tiny layers.” Daughton, Karimabadi and Roytershteyn took this new thinking – plus the three-dimensional kinetic plasma simulation code called VPIC – to the Cray XK6 at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The Department of Energy’s Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) program provided 37 million processor hours for the work.

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