Listening to the sound of the universe

100 years ago, Albert Einstein proposed the existence of gravitational waves in his general theory of relativity. To prove the existence of gravitational waves, the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) collaboration, funded by the National Science Foundation in the Unites States, uses incredibly sophisticated geographically distributed laser detectors to detect the elusive sounds of the universe. To hear the vibrations of space–time, data is analysed using supercomputers. High Performance Computing has had a crucial impact on the research outcome of the LIGO collaboration, which was awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics. For an overview, check out the following great video created by SC17:

Faced with this scientific challenge, the LIGO project has grown over the last two decades from 40 project members into a massive international project with thousands of participants. In August 2017, LIGO’s European sister-facility Virgo in Italy joined the collaboration.

Prof. Husa of the University of the Balearic Islands, and his multinational team, are involved in the LIGO-Virgo project. For their research work they used High Performance Computing and their analysis provides essential input to the LIGO-Virgo project.

Prof. Husa has been a multiple recipient of PRACE Project Access allocations and was awarded resources on a number of different HPC systems under various PRACE Project Access Calls:

  • 3rd Call – 14.7 million core hours on Hermit hosted by GCS at HLRS, Germany and 2 million core hours on Curie Fat Nodes hosted by GENCI at CEA, France
  • 5th Call – 37 million core hours on SuperMUC hosted by GCS at LRZ, Germany
  • 12th Call – 28.4 million core hours on MareNostrum hosted by BSC, Spain. This is a multi-year project running in its second year and is entitled Modeling Gravitational-Wave signals from Black-Hole Binaries.

Using PRACE resources has had a crucial impact on the research achievements of Prof. Husa’s team: “Computing time from Europe’s PRACE research infrastructure has been absolutely essential for the phenomenological waveforms collaboration, in which scientists working in Spain, the UK, Germany, India, and most recently also in the Netherlands and Switzerland, model the gravitational wave signals from coalescing binaries. The mathematical descriptions of such signals, which are distilled from tens of supercomputer simulations, help to identify the masses, distances, and other parameters of the sources of gravitational wave signals. For the most recent discovery, the merger of two neutron stars, these models help to tell where in the sky telescopes should point to, in order to find electromagnetic signatures of the event.” stated by Prof Sascha Husa, University of Balearic Islands, Spain.

Recently, the LIGO-Virgo collaboration detected gravitational waves and light from colliding neutron stars. .
In the future, new achievement will be expected in this research field due to PRACE having awarded an additional project currently running under the 14th Call of PRACE Project Access:

  • Dr Sebastiano Bernuzzi (University of Parma, Italy) is running the project “GWBNS – Gravitational waves from binary neutron star mergers” with 42.6 million core hours on Marconi-KNL hosted by Cineca, Italy His project contributes to the Virgo collaboration.

“PRACE is delighted to have helped Prof. Husa and his team in LIGO-Virgo carry out this fundamental research of the highest quality and impact, through the award of significant high-performance computing resources. PRACE has continued to support excellent science with a recent award to Dr Sebastiano Bernuzzi of the Virgo collaboration. The SSC looks forward to continuing its role ensuring the provision of world-class computational resources to benefit European science and society. “said Sinéad Ryan, Vice-Chair of the PRACE Scientific Steering Committee.