Japan Starts Up 3-Petaflops ‘ATERUI II’ Cray Supercomputer

By Tiffany Trader

June 5, 2018

The world’s most powerful supercomputer for astrophysical calculations has begun operations in Japan. The announcement comes from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), which last Friday (June 1) launched a new Cray XC50, nicknamed NS-05 “ATERUI II.” The supercomputer harnesses the power of 2,010 Intel Xeon 6148 20-core (2.4 Ghz) processors, providing 3.087 peak petaflops for NAOJ’s astronomical research and laying the groundwork for out-of-this-world breakthroughs.

“Computational astronomy is gaining popularity in many fields. A new ‘telescope’ for theoretical astronomy has opened its eyes,” said Professor Eiichiro Kokubo, project director of the Center for Computational Astrophysics at NAOJ, in an official statement. “I expect that ATERUI II will explore the Universe through more realistic simulations.”

ATERUI II has a total of 40,200 “Skylake” Xeon cores, along with 385.9TB main memory, and provides a three-fold increase in peak compute power over its predecessor. The original ATERUI began as a “Sandy Bridge”-based Cray XC30 in April 2013 and was upgraded to an XC40 with “Haswell”-generation processors in October 2014. Decommissioned in March 2018, it achieved a 298th ranking on the November 2017 Top500 listing with 801.4 Linpack teraflops (1.058 petaflops peak). Named after a historical Japanese chief who fought off conquerors in the region over one-thousand years ago, the ATERUI supercomputers have been tasked to “boldly confront the formidable enigmas of the Universe.”

“With its superior computational capability, ATERUI II will tackle problems too difficult for previous computers,” reads a press release from the Center for Computational Astrophysics at NAOJ. “For example, ATERUI II is able to calculate the mutual gravitational forces among the 200 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, rather than bunching them into groups of stars the way other simulations do. In this way ATERUI II will generate a full-scale high-resolution model of the Milky Way Galaxy.

“Computational astronomy is still a young discipline compared to observational astronomy, in which researchers use telescopes to observe celestial objects and phenomena, and theoretical astronomy, where researchers describe the Universe in terms of mathematics and physical laws. Thanks to the rapid advancement of computational technology in recent decades, astronomical simulations to recreate celestial objects, phenomena, or even the whole Universe within the computer, have risen up as the third pillar in astronomy.”

NAOJ anticipates that around 150 astronomers will utilize ATERUI this year. Their ultimate goal? Simulating the entire universe. “The age of the universe is 13.8 billion years,” Kokubo remarks in a brief YouTube video introducing the new resource. “With ATERUI II, we’ll explore the universe, from the past to the future.”

Movie: Supercomputer for Astronomy: ATERUI II; Directed by Yuichi Minamiguchi & Yoshiaki Higuchi; Music: ‘Melt’ Composed by Ayumi Yoshioka; Credit: NAOJ

Feature image: ATERUI II; Source: NAOJ; Credit: Shogo Nagayama, Makoto Shizugami, Hinako Fukushi

The story relies on materials published by the Center for Computational Astrophysics at NAOJ (link).

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