Swinburne launches supercomputer OzStar with paint job nod to Einstein

HPC will study the extreme physics of black holes and warped space-time

Swinburne University of Technology has officially launched its $4 million supercomputer OzStar and given it a paint job in ode to Albert Einstein.

The supercomputer, which can deliver more than a petaflop of processing power, is being used by the Swinburne-based Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav) to search for gravitational waves and study the extreme physics of black holes and warped space-time.

OzStar, based at Swinburne’s Hawthorn campus, is one of the most powerful computers in Australia, and the 444th most powerful in the world.

Professor Matthew Bailes, director of OzGrav said the supercomputer is processing gravitational wave data collected by advanced LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) installations in the US and powerful enough to search for coalescing black holes and neutron stars in real time.

OzStar gets its custom paint job
OzStar gets its custom paint job

“In one second, OzStar can perform 10,000 calculations for every one of the 100 billion starts in our galaxy,” Bailes said.

OzStar is powered by Dell EMC PowerEdge R740 servers equipped with Xeon processors and NVIDIA Telsa P100 GPUs. The supercomputer has 4140 CPU cores spread between 107 standard compute nodes and eight ‘data crunching’ nodes and 350 GPUs.

A 100 gigabit Dell EMC H-Series Networking Fabric delivers aggregate bandwidth of 86.4 terabits per second, and OzStar has access to five pebibytes of storage.

Beside gravitational wave studies, the system will also be used to support research in molecular dynamics, nanophotonics, advanced chemistry and atomic optics. 

It will also enable Swinburne’s Data Science Research Institute to tackle future data science challenges such as machine learning, deep learning, database interrogation and visualisation.

Albert’s spirit

Gravitational waves were first predicted 100 years ago by Albert Einstein in his theory of General Relativity.

Einstein showed that massive accelerating objects – such as neutron stars or black holes orbiting each other – distort both space and time and emit a type of radiation, known as gravitational waves.

Gravitational waves remained undetected for close to a century until advances in detector sensitivity at the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (aLIGO) in the US enabled their detection in September 2015.

Not long after being switched on, aLIGO sensed distortions in space-time caused by passing gravitational waves generated by two colliding black holes nearly 1.3 billion light years away that moved aLIGO’s mirrors by 1/10000th of the width of a proton.

OzGrav’s analysis of the aLIGO data is helping researchers detect the locations of the massive objects in the far reaches of the universe and study their behavior, a field of study that barely existed two years ago.

As a nod to Einstein, OzStar has been given a custom paint job designed by Swinburne graduate Justin Pedler and visual arts agency Apparition Media. The artwork features two black holes being observed by a ghostly figure of Einstein.


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Tags hpcSupercomputerSwinburne University of TechnologySwinburneAlbert Einsteingravitational wavesLIGOaLIGOHawthorn campus

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