HPC Resources for Theoretical Astrophysics at the University of Leicester

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

Abstract

Accretion on to a black hole is the most efficient way of extracting energy from conventional matter. Gravitational energy thus powers the most luminous objects in the Universe. At the same time, gravity's cumulative nature gives it a decisive role in determining the structure and evolution of matter at all scales. The theoretical understanding of these twin aspects -- accretion, and the structure and evolution of the parent systems -- are the key theme of our research, in various cosmic contexts. On the smallest scale, close binary systems containing black holes offer a highly tractable route to studying accretion processes such as disc formation and stability. But it is important also to understand the long--term evolution of these binaries themselves, and the standard and ultraluminous X--ray populations of other galaxies. Similarly, astronomers want to understand how accretion on to supermassive black holes (SMBH) powers active galactic nuclei (AGN). But they also wish to know how these objects fit into the general picture of galaxy structure and formation. Gamma--ray bursts (GRBs) offer another example where the study of accretion processes is closely linked to understanding the host galaxy, and stellar and binary evolution within it. Dark matter provides the potential wells within which structures form and evolve and we therefore need to understand its physical properties in order to have a complete theory of structure formation in the Universe. We study all of these objects theoretically, and our emphasis has shifted strongly towards supermassive/extra\-galactic systems over the last decade.

Publications

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Alexander R (2012) Deserts and pile-ups in the distribution of exoplanets due to photoevaporative disc clearing Exoplanet deserts and pile-ups in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters

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Alexander R (2011) Disc instability in RS Ophiuchi: a path to Type Ia supernovae RS Oph and Type Ia SNe in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Alexander R (2012) Galactic Centre star formation: the case of the missing gas disc The missing gas disc at the Galactic Centre in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Alexander Richard (2012) THE DISPERSAL OF PROTOPLANETARY DISKS AROUND BINARY STARS in ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL LETTERS

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Assmann P (2013) A possible formation scenario for dwarf spheroidal galaxies - II. A parameter study in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Assmann P (2013) A possible formation scenario for dwarf spheroidal galaxies - I. Fiducial model in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

 
Description DiRAC2: Recurrent Costs for 100 Tflop/s HPC cluster
Amount £391,000 (GBP)
Funding ID ST/K003259/1 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2012 
End 01/2016
 
Description DiRAC 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC)
Department Distributed Research Utilising Advanced Computing
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I am the PI for two research grants for the procurement and running of the Complexity@DiRAC High Performance Computing cluster at the University of Leicester. This cluster is now in active operation as a national HPC facility.
Collaborator Contribution DiRAC is the facility which provides HPC resources for the theoretical astrophysics and particle physics communities within STFC.
Impact The establishment and running of a new HPC cluster at the University of Leicester as part of the DiRAC national facility.
Start Year 2011
 
Description Astronomy Ireland 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Keynote/Invited Speaker
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I spoke to about 100 people at the Astronomy Ireland meeting in November 2013 in Trinity College Dublin.

My talk was very well received and I have been invited to give another talk to this audience at a later date.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.astronomy.ie/lecture201311.php
 
Description BBC Stargazing Live 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Keynote/Invited Speaker
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Presentations as part of the BBC Stargazing Live at the National Space Centre and at the University of Leicester, attended by approximately 50 people (2011), 50 people (2012), 300 people (2013), 100 people (2014). The presentation generated lots of questions and discussion from the audience.

Local schools had an opportunity to visit the University which is good for inclusivity.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011,2012,2013,2014
 
Description Cafe Scientifique 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Keynote/Invited Speaker
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I spoke to the Nottingham Cafe Scientifique about various aspects of the research that myself and others are doing with DiRAC. About 40 people attended. I gave a 25 minute presentation which was followed by more than an hour of questions and discussion.

One audience member wrote a blog piece about my talk.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://nottinghamscience.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/talk-building-galaxies-in-office.html
 
Description Royal Society Summer Exhibition 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Over the course of the four day, more than 600 people attended my talks. The Friday evening presentation was followed by more than an hour of audience questions.

Several audience members contacted me to ask additional questions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description School Visit (Dublin) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Keynote/Invited Speaker
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Approximately 90 primary school students (3 classes) aged 8-12 years old attended my talks in Rathfarnham Parish National School.

Following my visit, a number of students expressed interest in pursuing a career in science.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Secular Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Keynote/Invited Speaker
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Spoke to about 50 members of the Leicester Secular Society.

My talk generated considerable discussion among the members of the LSS.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL http://www.leicestersecularsociety.org.uk/calendar/view_entry.php?id=1145&date=20121209