Supercomputer assists in a world first for space simulation
One of the most powerful supercomputers in Europe is to help the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) become the first in the world to run a large-scale space simulator.
The Vlasiator simulator, supported by the Academy of Finland, has been developed with the help of a starting grant of nearly EUR 1 million, which was awarded by the European Research Council (ERC).
In order to develop this simulator, the powerful computer, named Hermit, a Cray XE6 type, has been provided by the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE). It holds number 12 on the renowned TOP 500 lists of the world's fastest supercomputers, and in the ranking of industrially used supercomputers, Hermit is number one worldwide.
PRACE, which is a high-performance computing (HPC) service for scientists and researchers from academia and industry, has awarded 30 million core hours of computing time to the Institute for their Vlasiator space simulator. The allocation of hours awarded to this project has a monetary value of computing time of around EUR 1 million, and it has been granted free of charge.
Sebastian von Alfthan, research scientist at the FMI, explains what these hours mean; '30 million hours of computing times means that we receive 30 million core-hours. The unit translates to the usage of one core for one hour. If we, for example, run our simulation code on 10,000 cores then we can run it for 3,000 hours which corresponds to 125 days.'
These designated hours will be used for the Institutes' latest space simulation, Vlasiator, which is designed for modelling near space, and requires the most computing time. Installed in Germany, the supercomputer has 113,664 cores and performs over 1 million billion computations per second.
Simulation models are used in various ways: to study processes involved in the origin of auroras and for predicting space weather, which can help in protecting satellites against harmful particle showers.
The FMI specialises in large-scale computer simulations modelling the behaviour of particles and electromagnetic fields in the vicinity of Earth and other bodies in the solar system.
Minna Palmroth, the Earth observation programme director at FMI who is leading the Vlasiator project, says; 'With the computing time we have received, it's like switching from a compact car to the world's most powerful vehicle. Using these resources, we'll be the first in the world to run a large-scale space simulation where even small-scale phenomena can be seen accurately for the first time ever. For example, we'll see the properties of the shock wave surrounding the magnetosphere much more accurately than before. Our preliminary results have already shown that small-scale phenomena in plasma may play an important role in the formation of the shock. This may also affect the properties of plasma flowing into the magnetic field.'
Vlasiator is the world's first simulation based on the Vlasov equation that can create a model of the Earth's entire magnetic field in three dimensions, while at the same time creating particle distributions in six dimensions. The Vlasiator model can also be run using the FMI's own supercomputers. However, the resources offered by PRACE, representing the highest performance in European computing, enable more accurate and faster modelling.
For more information, please visit:
Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI):
Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE):
Academy of Finland:
Data Source Provider: The Finnish Meteorological Institute
Document Reference: Based on information from the Finnish Meteorological Institute
Subject Index: Aerospace Technology; Information Processing, Information Systems; Space & satellite research