Spoiler Alert: Glimpse Next Week’s Solar Eclipse Via Simulation from TACC, SDSC, and NASA

By John Russell

August 17, 2017

Can’t wait to see next week’s solar eclipse? You can at least catch glimpses of what scientists expect it will look like. A team from Predictive Science Inc. (PSI), based in San Diego, working with Stampede2 at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), Comet at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), and NASA’s Pleiades supercomputer have produced a stunning simulation of the event.

According to an article posted on the TACC web site today (Spoiler Alert: Computer Simulations Provide Preview Of Solar Eclipse, written by Aaron Dubrow), PSI took the opportunity of the approaching eclipse to prove its forecasting chops with support from NASA, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the National Science Foundation.

The work started on July 28. “[T]hey began a large-scale simulation of the Sun’s surface in preparation for a prediction of what the solar corona — the aura of plasma that surrounds the sun and extends millions of kilometers into space — will look like during the eclipse,” wrote Dubrow. The images accompanying the article are breathtaking, as shown below, and include a simulation.

The image above on the left shows a digitally processed version of the polarized brightness using a “Wavelet” filter to bring out the details in the image. The image on the right shows traces of selected magnetic field lines from the model.

Jon Linker, president and senior research scientist of PSI is quoted, “Advanced computational resources are crucial to developing detailed physical models of the solar corona and solar wind. The growth in the power of these resources in recent years has fueled an increase in not only the resolution of these models, but the sophistication of the way the models treat the underlying physical processes as well.”

Time on Stampede2 and Comet was provided by the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE), a collection of integrated advanced digital resources available to U.S. researchers. The research team completed their initial forecasts on July 31, 2017, and published their final predictions using newer magnetic field data on their website on August 15, 2017. They will present their results in a series of presentations at the Solar Physics Division (SPD) meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), Aug. 22-24.

Link to the article by Dubrow: https://www.tacc.utexas.edu/-/spoiler-alert-computer-simulations-provide-preview-of-solar-eclipse

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