TACC Supercomputers Play Pivotal Role in Event Horizon Telescope’s First-Ever Black Hole Image

April 15, 2019

April 15, 2019 — On April 10, a team of researchers from around the world revealed an image that many believed impossible to produce: a portrait of the shadow cast by a black hole that sits at the center of the galaxy Messier 87 — 53.49 million light years away.

A luminous orange circle with a dark center and a bright lip, the image is a product of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), a distributed collection of eight, high-altitude radio telescopes scattered around the globe that, when combined, form an Earth-sized observatory capable of capturing distant radio waves with a clarity not possible before.

Scientists have obtained the first image of a black hole using Event Horizon Telescope observations of the center of the galaxy M87. The image shows a bright ring formed as light bends in the intense gravity around a black hole that is 6.5 billion times more massive than the Sun. This long-sought image provides the strongest evidence to date for the existence of supermassive black holes and opens a new window onto the study of black holes, their event horizons, and gravity. [Credit: Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration]
“We are delighted to report to you today that we have seen what we thought was unseeable,” said Shep Doeleman, project director of the Event Horizon Telescope, at the announcement event in Washington D.C

The data from the telescopes was collected during a 2017 global campaign, after decades of scientific, engineering, and computational research and preparation. Results of the work describing various aspects of the research were published in six papers in the Astrophysical Journal Letters this week.

Helping to lay the groundwork for the black hole imaging, and providing the theoretical underpinnings that enabled the researchers to interpret the mass, underlying structure, and orientations of the black hole and its environment, were supercomputers at The University of Texas at Austin’s Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) — Stampede1Stampede2 and Jetstream — all three of which were supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), which also provided key funding for the EHT.

“For decades, we have studied how black holes swallow material and power the hearts of galaxies,” said Harvard University professor and EHT researcher Ramesh Narayan, who used TACC resources in support of the project. “To finally see a black hole in action, bending its nearby light into a bright ring, is a breathtaking confirmation that supermassive black holes exist and match the appearance expected from our simulations.”

Several teams of researchers, including Narayan, used the high-performance resources of Stampede1 and Stampede2 to model the physical attributes of M87 and predict observational features of the black hole.

“We are doing finite difference, three-dimensional simulations with not just gas dynamics, but also magnetic fields,” he said. “That includes radiation and what is called two-temperature physics in a general relativistic framework. For these, we really do need TACC’s Stampede system with lots of cores and lots of hours.”

Predicted images and quantities from simulations were compared to the real EHT observational values and used to validate the model and even fundamental theories such as general relativity, according to Hotaka Shiokawa, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and another member of the EHT team. Shiokawa’s underlying general relativistic magnetohydrodynamics simulations were run on Stampede1 and Stampede2 as well.

“The simulations are computationally very expensive and supercomputers are definitely needed,” he said.

After the relativistic simulations of M87 were run, further simulations converted the dynamics of the black hole into a picture of what such a system would look like from the perspective of Earth using ray-tracing methods.

“You pretend you’re an observer looking at the system from some viewing angle,” said Narayan. “You ask: ‘What would I observe if this were the real system? What kind of image I would see at this spectrum?'”

The simulations and visualizations help scientists determine whether the image obtained through observation matches up with reliable physical theories. The first-of-its-kind image also helps confirm and fine-tune the theoretical astrophysical models, including properties of accretion disks — the matter swirling around the edge of the black hole — and jets — energy spinning out of a black hole and shooting through space.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Professor of Physics and Astronomy Charles Gammie, a member of the EHT Science Council Board who co-led the theory working group and served as co-coordinator of Paper V, was another researcher who focused on the theoretical interpretation of the EHT data using TACC resources.

Gammie and his students made significant contributions to the collaboration’s theoretical analysis. They generated an extensive library of three-dimensional, time-dependent numerical models, which they compared with the five petabytes of EHT data. The effort was a massive computational undertaking, and Gammie’s team developed sophisticated computer codes to make running and analyzing the simulations as efficient as possible.

“The computing resources at TACC were crucial in enabling our survey of black hole spin, and in the development of our GRMHD [General Relativity Magnetohydrodynamic] code, our radiative transfer code, and other analysis codes, over the last decade,” said Gammie, who has computed on TACC systems since 2008.

Using Stampede2, Gammie produced simulations of accretion disks related to the EHT targets, which aided in the interpretation of data. His team used a code they developed to survey the parameter space and identify models that best fit the data.

“M87 is the nearest galaxy with a supermassive black hole that’s generating a powerful jet — a beautiful streamer made of plasma travelling at close to the speed of light,” Gammie noted.

“One of the great mysteries in astronomy has been how such jets are launched. Our simulations, which are based on the motion of magnetic fields and hot gas near the black hole, showed that the jets are powered by the black hole itself.”

The Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE), a virtual organization funded by NSF that integrates and coordinates the sharing of advanced digital services across the U.S., awarded time on TACC systems to the researchers.

BRINGING THE BLACK HOLE TO THE CLOUD

Alongside the simulation and modeling effort, another group of researchers from the University of Arizona (UA) were using Jetstream — a large-scale cloud environment for research located both at TACC and Indiana University — to develop cloud-based data analysis pipelines that proved crucial for combining huge amounts of data taken from the geographically-distributed observatories, and sharing the data with researchers around the world.

“New technologies such as cloud computing are essential to support international collaborations like this,” said Chi-kwan Chan, leader of the EHT Computations and Software Working Group and an assistant astronomer at UA. “The production run was actually carried out on Google Cloud, but much of the early development was on Jetstream. Without Jetstream, it is unclear that we would have a cloud-based pipeline at all.”

Using Jetstream, Chan and his colleagues showed that it was possible to use cloud computing to perform correlations, a process that removed noise from the data and reduced the data from an unwieldy scale (5 petabytes) to a scale (tens of terabytes) that could be more easily stored and shared around the globe for analysis and experimentation by many research groups. They also prototyped a pipeline for fringe fitting using Jetstream that removed systematic errors from the data.

Because the prototypes worked so well, the team was able to receive a grant from the NSF to deploy the same pipeline for data analysis on Google Cloud.

“The only way we were able to use this cloud was because Jetstream was available to us to do all this development,” Chan said.

With powerful TACC supercomputers at their disposal, researchers were able to turn theoretical models of black holes into specific predictions about M87, which ultimately gave scientists confidence that the image produced by the EHT collaboration was accurate. The nation’s research cyberinfrastructure also provided a testbed for the distributed data analysis pipelines that made such a large, distributed scientific effort possible.

TACC played a similar role in the work leading up to the Nobel Prize-winning detection and, once detected, physical interpretation of gravitational waves. Similar to EHT, TACC worked with researchers from the LIGO collaboration and from Stephen Hawking’s Centre for Theoretical Cosmology to improve their data processing efficiency and model the collision of the black holes which created the gravitational waves.

The first image of the M87 black hole is both the end of one long road, and the beginning of another. Work to interpret the results of this major discovery will continue for many years with help from TACC supercomputers.

“These groundbreaking results show how discovery and imagination are fueled by advanced computing systems combined with the talented researchers and developers that use them,” said Niall Gaffney, TACC’s director of Data Intensive Computing.

“This is just the beginning of our understanding of the extreme gravitational environments of black holes. We at TACC will continue to provide the world-class support and services that lead to these and other fundamental discoveries about the nature of the universe in which we live.”


Source: Aaron Dubrow, TACC

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Amid Upbeat Earnings, Intel to Cut 1% of Employees, Add as Many

January 24, 2020

For all the sniping two tech old timers take, both IBM and Intel announced surprisingly upbeat earnings this week. IBM CEO Ginny Rometty was all smiles at this week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, after  Read more…

By Doug Black

Indiana University Dedicates ‘Big Red 200’ Cray Shasta Supercomputer

January 24, 2020

After six months of celebrations, Indiana University (IU) officially marked its bicentennial on Monday – and it saved the best for last, inaugurating Big Red 200, a new AI-focused supercomputer that joins the ranks of Read more…

By Staff report

What’s New in HPC Research: Tsunamis, Wildfires, the Large Hadron Collider & More

January 24, 2020

In this bimonthly feature, HPCwire highlights newly published research in the high-performance computing community and related domains. From parallel programming to exascale to quantum computing, the details are here. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Toshiba Promises Quantum-Like Advantage on Standard Hardware

January 23, 2020

Toshiba has invented an algorithm that it says delivers a 10-fold improvement for a select class of computational problems, without the need for exotic hardware. In fact, the company's simulated bifurcation algorithm is Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Energy Research Combines HPC, 3D Manufacturing

January 23, 2020

A federal energy research initiative is gaining momentum with the release of a contract award aimed at using supercomputing to harness 3D printing technology that would boost the performance of power generators. Partn Read more…

By George Leopold

AWS Solution Channel

Challenging the barriers to High Performance Computing in the Cloud

Cloud computing helps democratize High Performance Computing by placing powerful computational capabilities in the hands of more researchers, engineers, and organizations who may lack access to sufficient on-premises infrastructure. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Intelligent HPC – Keeping Hard Work at Bay(es)

Since the dawn of time, humans have looked for ways to make their lives easier. Over the centuries human ingenuity has given us inventions such as the wheel and simple machines – which help greatly with tasks that would otherwise be extremely laborious. Read more…

TACC Highlights Its Upcoming ‘IsoBank’ Isotope Database

January 22, 2020

Isotopes – elemental variations that contain different numbers of neutrons – can help researchers unearth the past of an object, especially the few hundred isotopes that are known to be stable over time. However, iso Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Toshiba Promises Quantum-Like Advantage on Standard Hardware

January 23, 2020

Toshiba has invented an algorithm that it says delivers a 10-fold improvement for a select class of computational problems, without the need for exotic hardware Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

In Advanced Computing and HPC, Dell EMC Sets Sights on the Broader Market Middle 

January 22, 2020

If the leading advanced computing/HPC server vendors were in the batting lineup of a baseball team, Dell EMC would be going for lots of singles and doubles – Read more…

By Doug Black

DNA-Based Storage Nears Scalable Reality with New $25 Million Project

January 21, 2020

DNA-based storage, which involves storing binary code in the four nucleotides that constitute DNA, has been a moonshot for high-density data storage since the 1960s. Since the first successful experiments in the 1980s, researchers have made a series of major strides toward implementing DNA-based storage at scale, such as improving write times and storage density and enabling easier file identification and extraction. Now, a new $25 million... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

AMD Recruits Intel, IBM Execs; Pending Layoffs Reported at Intel Data Platform Group

January 17, 2020

AMD has raided Intel and IBM for new senior managers, one of whom will replace an AMD executive who has played a prominent role during the company’s recharged Read more…

By Doug Black

Atos-AMD System to Quintuple Supercomputing Power at European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts

January 15, 2020

The United Kingdom-based European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), a supercomputer-powered weather forecasting organization backed by most of Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Julia Programming’s Dramatic Rise in HPC and Elsewhere

January 14, 2020

Back in 2012 a paper by four computer scientists including Alan Edelman of MIT introduced Julia, A Fast Dynamic Language for Technical Computing. At the time, t Read more…

By John Russell

White House AI Regulatory Guidelines: ‘Remove Impediments to Private-sector AI Innovation’

January 9, 2020

When it comes to new technology, it’s been said government initially stays uninvolved – then gets too involved. The White House’s guidelines for federal a Read more…

By Doug Black

IBM Touts Quantum Network Growth, Improving QC Quality, and Battery Research

January 8, 2020

IBM today announced its Q (quantum) Network community had grown to 100-plus – Delta Airlines and Los Alamos National Laboratory are among most recent addition Read more…

By John Russell

Using AI to Solve One of the Most Prevailing Problems in CFD

October 17, 2019

How can artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing (HPC) solve mesh generation, one of the most commonly referenced problems in computational engineering? A new study has set out to answer this question and create an industry-first AI-mesh application... Read more…

By James Sharpe

SC19: IBM Changes Its HPC-AI Game Plan

November 25, 2019

It’s probably fair to say IBM is known for big bets. Summit supercomputer – a big win. Red Hat acquisition – looking like a big win. OpenPOWER and Power processors – jury’s out? At SC19, long-time IBMer Dave Turek sketched out a different kind of bet for Big Blue – a small ball strategy, if you’ll forgive the baseball analogy... Read more…

By John Russell

Cray, Fujitsu Both Bringing Fujitsu A64FX-based Supercomputers to Market in 2020

November 12, 2019

The number of top-tier HPC systems makers has shrunk due to a steady march of M&A activity, but there is increased diversity and choice of processing compon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Julia Programming’s Dramatic Rise in HPC and Elsewhere

January 14, 2020

Back in 2012 a paper by four computer scientists including Alan Edelman of MIT introduced Julia, A Fast Dynamic Language for Technical Computing. At the time, t Read more…

By John Russell

Crystal Ball Gazing: IBM’s Vision for the Future of Computing

October 14, 2019

Dario Gil, IBM’s relatively new director of research, painted a intriguing portrait of the future of computing along with a rough idea of how IBM thinks we’ Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Debuts New GPU – Ponte Vecchio – and Outlines Aspirations for oneAPI

November 17, 2019

Intel today revealed a few more details about its forthcoming Xe line of GPUs – the top SKU is named Ponte Vecchio and will be used in Aurora, the first plann Read more…

By John Russell

Dell Ramps Up HPC Testing of AMD Rome Processors

October 21, 2019

Dell Technologies is wading deeper into the AMD-based systems market with a growing evaluation program for the latest Epyc (Rome) microprocessors from AMD. In a Read more…

By John Russell

D-Wave’s Path to 5000 Qubits; Google’s Quantum Supremacy Claim

September 24, 2019

On the heels of IBM’s quantum news last week come two more quantum items. D-Wave Systems today announced the name of its forthcoming 5000-qubit system, Advantage (yes the name choice isn’t serendipity), at its user conference being held this week in Newport, RI. Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

SC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

AMD
AMD
ASROCK RACK
ASROCK RACK
AWS
AWS
CEJN
CJEN
CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
IBM
IBM
MELLANOX
MELLANOX
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
SIX NINES IT
SIX NINES IT
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL
WEKAIO
WEKAIO

IBM Unveils Latest Achievements in AI Hardware

December 13, 2019

“The increased capabilities of contemporary AI models provide unprecedented recognition accuracy, but often at the expense of larger computational and energet Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

SC19: Welcome to Denver

November 17, 2019

A significant swath of the HPC community has come to Denver for SC19, which began today (Sunday) with a rich technical program. As is customary, the ribbon cutt Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Jensen Huang’s SC19 – Fast Cars, a Strong Arm, and Aiming for the Cloud(s)

November 20, 2019

We’ve come to expect Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang’s annual SC keynote to contain stunning graphics and lively bravado (with plenty of examples) in support of GPU Read more…

By John Russell

Top500: US Maintains Performance Lead; Arm Tops Green500

November 18, 2019

The 54th Top500, revealed today at SC19, is a familiar list: the U.S. Summit (ORNL) and Sierra (LLNL) machines, offering 148.6 and 94.6 petaflops respectively, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

51,000 Cloud GPUs Converge to Power Neutrino Discovery at the South Pole

November 22, 2019

At the dead center of the South Pole, thousands of sensors spanning a cubic kilometer are buried thousands of meters beneath the ice. The sensors are part of Ic Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Azure Cloud First with AMD Epyc Rome Processors

November 6, 2019

At Ignite 2019 this week, Microsoft's Azure cloud team and AMD announced an expansion of their partnership that began in 2017 when Azure debuted Epyc-backed instances for storage workloads. The fourth-generation Azure D-series and E-series virtual machines previewed at the Rome launch in August are now generally available. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel’s New Hyderabad Design Center Targets Exascale Era Technologies

December 3, 2019

Intel's Raja Koduri was in India this week to help launch a new 300,000 square foot design and engineering center in Hyderabad, which will focus on advanced com Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Summit Has Real-Time Analytics: Here’s How It Happened and What’s Next

October 3, 2019

Summit – the world’s fastest publicly-ranked supercomputer – now has real-time streaming analytics. At the 2019 HPC User Forum at Argonne National Laborat Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This