Jan. 12, 2016
Previous Next

NASA features LLNL star-formation simulations

Don Johnston, johnston19 [at] llnl.gov, 925-423-4902

High performance computing (HPC) simulations exploring star formation by Lawrence Livermore astrophysicist Richard Klein were among select research highlights featured by NASA at the recent supercomputing conference in Austin, Texas.

Klein’s "Simulating Star Formation: From Giant Molecular Clouds to Protostellar Clusters" presentation is now on NASA’s website.

The origin of star clusters remains one of astrophysics’ fundamental unsolved problems. Stellar cluster and massive star formation are at the center of the complex processes that shaped the universe as we know it today. Yet a clear understanding of the processes involved in star formation remains elusive.

Taking on such a problem requires complex simulations that must include a broad range of physical processes, including: gravity, supersonic turbulence, hydrodynamics, outflows, magnetic fields, chemistry and ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. But such simulations are very difficult to produce because of the high degree of non-linear coupling and feedback mechanisms among these processes, as well as the large dynamic range in time and spatial scales.

Klein, who also is an adjunct professor of astronomy at UC Berkeley, used the advanced 3D adaptive mesh refinement code ORION2 to produce large-scale simulations that include the aforementioned physical processes. The simulations were performed on NASA’s 5.3 petaflops (quadrillion floating point operations per second) Pleiades supercomputer at the Ames Research Center, Moffet Field.

He was one of only four researchers whose work was highlighted by NASA, and he presented his work on the powerwall in NASA’s SC15 booth. Klein showed high-resolution animations of star formation produced by NASA’s renowned visualization team. Research on star formation he has performed along with collaborators at UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz and Princeton University has been featured in Nature, Science, The Astrophysical Journal, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and Science Express. At the Lab, Klein works in WCI’s Design Physics Division.

For more about Klein’s research and to view animations or images, see the ‘Gallery’ on NASA’s Website

View more animations below:

Volume rendering of the time evolution of molecular gas from large-scale adaptive mesh refinement magnetohydrodynamic turbulence simulation

Simulation run of the ORION2 code, showing 350,000 years of evolution of a giant molecular cloud

Interactions of the jet-like outflow (bottom row) from protostars with the turbulent environment of a massive star cluster

Column density of an infrared dark cloud in a simulation generated by the ORION2 code shows a complex, braided filamentary structure