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Supercomputer Simulations Key to Understanding Star Formation

Composite image showing young stars in and around molecular cloud Cepheus B

Composite image showing young stars in and around molecular cloud Cepheus B

Researchers from UC San Diego are tapping the power of advanced supercomputers to solve age-old mysteries of astrophysics. Their newly published paper entitled A Supersonic Turbulence Origin of Larson’s Laws for the first time provides an explanation for the origin of three observed correlations between various properties of molecular clouds in the Milky Way galaxy known as Larson’s Laws.

This paper is essentially the culmination of seven years of research, aided by the use of large-scale supercomputer simulations conducted at SDSC and elsewhere,” said Alexei Kritsuk, a research physicist with UC San Diego’s Physics Department and Center for Astrophysics & Space Sciences (CASS) and lead author of the paper. “Molecular clouds are the birth sites for stars, so this paper relates also to the theory of star formation.”

The researcher team includes Michael Norman, Director of the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) and a Distinguished Professor of physics at UC San Diego, and Christoph T. Lee, an undergraduate researcher with CASS. SDSC’s Trestles and Triton clusters, and now-decommissioned DataStar system, were used to generate the simulations, as well as the Krakenand Nautilus systems at the National Institute for Computational Science (NICS), at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

None of these new findings and insights would have been possible without the tremendous advances in supercomputer simulations that allow not only cosmologists but scientists in countless other domains an unprecedented level of resolution and data-processing speed to further their research,” said Norman, a globally recognized astrophysicist who has pioneered the use of advanced computational methods to explore the universe and its beginnings. “We believe that this paper paints the complete picture, drawing from earlier published works of ours as well as presenting new simulations that have not been published before.”

Read the Feature Story or check out the Complete Research Paper.

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