Astrophysics Visualization Record Breaker

Blue clouds and green clumps embodying gas structures, or a silver-orange mixture representing magnetic fields: these stunning images illustrate the course of interstellar turbulence. For the first time, a team of researchers led by astrophysicist Salvatore Cielo from the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) succeeded in illustrating what happens when the explosions of supernovae and stellar winds form stars. The 3-minute film with the fascinating images and physical formulas has been shortlisted for the best ‘Scientific Visualization & Data Analytics Showcase’ at SC19 in Denver and will be presented there from 17 to 22 November. According to the reviewers the film conveys the history of science efficiently and justifies the effort on a supercomputer. They acknowledged that the volume reproduction of such large amounts of data is a challenge.

The largest simulation of interstellar turbulence

The film about interstellar turbulence is the largest visualization of such a cosmic event ever shown and was produced at the LRZ on the basis of datasets from astrophysicist Christoph Federrath of the Australian National University in Canberra. The astrophysicists Salvatore Cielo and Luigi Iapichino from (both LRZ) calculated the rendering on SuperMUC-NG, one of the most powerful supercomputers worldwide to date (#9 in Top500 as of June 2019). This material was implemented by the visualization specialists Elisabeth Mayer and Markus Wiedemann at the Centre for Virtual Reality and Visualisation (V2C) at the LRZ.

Scientists were enthusiastic about the film, because for the first time measurement data sets from astrophysical turbulences were visualized in highest resolution at the first time. Key astrophysical processes concerning the formation or the birth of stars and the relative role of magnetic fields are set up in a size of 100483 grid elements – and with a huge amount of data: Without supercomputer with the performance capabilities of SuperMUC-NG this would not have been possible. For the visualisation, the team used the open source visualization tools VisIT and OSPRay from Intel and adapted these to their needs.

How to visualize interstellar turbulence

The almost meditative images of interstellar turbulence help to understand how stars are formed. In formulas and texts, the LRZ team explains both, the visualization and the processes of interstellar turbulences. Salvatore Cielo will explain and discuss this during SC19.


Video: LRZ youtube
Preview video: LRZ youtube (to come)