HYDRA: an HPC facility for Pulsar Astrophysics

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Physics and Astronomy

Abstract

We request funds for the acquisition of a powerful supercomputer in order to help in the search for the theory of gravity that describes the evolution of the Universe as well as the movement of planets. So far, Einstein's theory of general relativity (GR) has passed all observational tests, but recent results in cosmology and the incompatibility of GR with quantum mechanics suggest that GR may fail to describe the gravitational interaction of the macroscopic world under some extreme conditions. In an attempt to determine these conditions, ever more stringent tests of GR need to be conducted, and the requested computing is capable of finding the corresponding cosmic laboratories: The requested computing power is required to search survey data obtained by the Lovell telescope and others of the world's largest radio-telescopes for radio pulsars. Pulsars are rotating neutron stars emitting radio beams along their magnetic axes and hence act like a cosmic lighthouses that sweep beams of radio light through the Universe as they rotate. A pulsar is therefore a cosmic clock which sends us its ``ticks'' with a regularity that in many cases rivals that of the best atomic clocks on Earth, as the pulsar is essentially a massive flywheel in empty space. We can use these clocks to put Einstein's theory and other theories of gravity to the test by finding them in binary systems with massive companions such as other neutron stars or black holes, and by studying how these clocks move in the 'space-time' distorted by a massive companion. The requested computing facility will be capable of finding the most extreme binary systems yet known, including classes of potentially existing pulsar - black hole systems -- the ultimate laboratories for gravitational physics.

Publications

10 25 50
publication icon
Lyne A. G. (2015) 45 years of rotation of the Crab pulsar in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

publication icon
Bates S (2011) A 6.5-GHz multibeam pulsar survey A 6.5-GHz multibeam pulsar survey in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

publication icon
Thornton D (2013) A population of fast radio bursts at cosmological distances. in Science (New York, N.Y.)

publication icon
Levin L (2010) A RADIO-LOUD MAGNETAR IN X-RAY QUIESCENCE in The Astrophysical Journal

publication icon
Rubio-Herrera E (2013) A search for radio pulsars and fast transients in M31 using the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

publication icon
Stappers B. W. (2014) A State Change in the Missing Link Binary Pulsar System PSR J1023+0038 in The Astrophysical Journal

publication icon
Champion D (2016) Five new fast radio bursts from the HTRU high-latitude survey at Parkes: first evidence for two-component bursts in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters

publication icon
Keane E (2010) Further searches for Rotating Radio Transients in the Parkes Multi-beam Pulsar Survey in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

publication icon
Bassa C. G. (2016) LEAP: the Large European Array for Pulsars in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

 
Description One of the key elements of purchasing the HYDRA supercomputer was to aid our ability to find new pulsars and so-called fast transients by improving computational capabilities so we could search in a greater range of parameter space but also to allow the implementation of new algorithms. Some key results are:

i) We have confirmed a new type of short duration, about 1 millisecond long, radio transient source that is not seen to repeat. These so-called Fast Radio Bursts are therefore believed to be associated with cataclysmic events, i.e. where a star, or stars, explode or merge. Moreover they are thought to be located at cosmological distances and by studying the properties of the signal after it has propagated through the intervening medium, this can tell us important information about the so-called missing baryons, i.e. where is some of the missing mass, in the Universe.

ii) We have discovered two new planets, these are not like planets known anywhere else in the Galaxy up until now. They orbit radio pulsars and they are most likely formed through the ablation of material from a former star. What remains is an extremely dense object, with a density greater than diamond, and hence they have gained the moniker diamond planets.

iii) We have also been able to find many more so-called millisecond pulsars, these rapidly rotating compact objects are the best known of nature's clocks and their stability of rotation means that they can be used for many experiments from studying theories of gravity to the direct detection of gravitational waves. As part of the pulsar survey we have carried out using HYDRA as a processing resource we have found a number of objects which will contribute to both of these studies.
Exploitation Route Through the finding of many new and varied types of objects we are able to provide sources than can be used in a variety of further astrophysical study. The algorithms and methods we have developed may also be used for future large radio telescopes like the Square Kilometre Array.
Sectors Other

 
Description The main areas where our research has been used outside of academia is in the area of cultural impact. This has concentrated in the areas that are described through our outputs such as: Press releases, public websites, presentations to public groups, including schools, through our contributions to the University of Manchester's Discovery Centre.
First Year Of Impact 2009
Sector Education,Other
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description High Time Resolution Universe - North 
Organisation Australia Telescope National Facility
Country Australia 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have provided expertise, personnel and computing resources
Collaborator Contribution Computing Facilities, expertise
Impact None yet as this collaboration has only just started acquiring data and is a long term project
Start Year 2009
 
Description High Time Resolution Universe - North 
Organisation Max Planck Society
Department Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics
Country Germany 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have provided expertise, personnel and computing resources
Collaborator Contribution Computing Facilities, expertise
Impact None yet as this collaboration has only just started acquiring data and is a long term project
Start Year 2009
 
Description High Time Resolution Universe - North 
Organisation Max Planck Society
Department Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy
Country Germany 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have provided expertise, personnel and computing resources
Collaborator Contribution Computing Facilities, expertise
Impact None yet as this collaboration has only just started acquiring data and is a long term project
Start Year 2009
 
Description High Time Resolution Universe - South 
Organisation Australia Telescope National Facility
Country Australia 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have provided training, manpower, expertise and facilities
Impact This has resulted in 2 published papers, 2 in press and 4 presently in preparation.
Start Year 2007
 
Description High Time Resolution Universe - South 
Organisation Max Planck Society
Department Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy
Country Germany 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have provided training, manpower, expertise and facilities
Impact This has resulted in 2 published papers, 2 in press and 4 presently in preparation.
Start Year 2007
 
Description High Time Resolution Universe - South 
Organisation National Institute for Astrophysics
Country Italy 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have provided training, manpower, expertise and facilities
Impact This has resulted in 2 published papers, 2 in press and 4 presently in preparation.
Start Year 2007
 
Description High Time Resolution Universe - South 
Organisation Swinburne University of Technology
Department Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing
Country Australia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have provided training, manpower, expertise and facilities
Impact This has resulted in 2 published papers, 2 in press and 4 presently in preparation.
Start Year 2007
 
Description LOFAR 
Organisation ASTRON Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy
Country Netherlands 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We contribute to the science, observations and data reduction but we also supply technical expertise.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners provide science, observing support, data analysis and technical expertise.
Impact The major outcomes of this collaboration are research papers as indicated in the relevant sections above.
 
Description LOFAR 
Organisation Max Planck Society
Department Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy
Country Germany 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We contribute to the science, observations and data reduction but we also supply technical expertise.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners provide science, observing support, data analysis and technical expertise.
Impact The major outcomes of this collaboration are research papers as indicated in the relevant sections above.
 
Description LOFAR 
Organisation University of Amsterdam
Country Netherlands 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We contribute to the science, observations and data reduction but we also supply technical expertise.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners provide science, observing support, data analysis and technical expertise.
Impact The major outcomes of this collaboration are research papers as indicated in the relevant sections above.
 
Description LOFAR 
Organisation University of Oxford
Department Department of Physics
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We contribute to the science, observations and data reduction but we also supply technical expertise.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners provide science, observing support, data analysis and technical expertise.
Impact The major outcomes of this collaboration are research papers as indicated in the relevant sections above.
 
Description LOFAR 
Organisation University of Southampton
Department Physics and Astronomy
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We contribute to the science, observations and data reduction but we also supply technical expertise.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners provide science, observing support, data analysis and technical expertise.
Impact The major outcomes of this collaboration are research papers as indicated in the relevant sections above.