The University of California High-Performance AstroComputing Center (UC-HiPACC), based at the University of California at Santa Cruz, is consortium of nine University of California campuses and three Department of Energy laboratories (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, and Los Alamos National Laboratory). Together, these entities comprise what is easily the largest and most powerful computational astrophysics faculty in the world—at a key moment when astro-simulations are just now reaching their full power to explain and interpret the universe.
The mission of UC-HiPACC is to realize the full potential of these world-class resources by fostering collaborations among astronomers, computational astrophysicists, computer scientists, computer hardware engineers, and the builders and users of UC telescopes across the entire University of California system—doing so with an expenditure of funds that is modest compared to UC’s already huge investments.
What we do
UC-HiPACC, which began operating in January 2010, does not directly fund research or major hardware. Instead, it supports activities to facilitate and encourage excellence and collaboration in astronomy accross the UC system. UC-HIPACC sponsors working groups of UC scientists from multiple campuses and labs pursuing joint projects in computational astrophysics; such sponsorship includes supporting travel and lodging for working meetings. It sponsors workshops and conferences on topics in computational astrophysics (typically, one in Northern California and one in Southern California each year). It also sponsors an annual summer school on a topic in computational astrophysics open to UC grad students and postdocs as well as participants from around the world.
Specific activities sponsored and funding opportunities offered by UC-HiPACC include:
- sponsoring UC-HiPACC’s annual International Summer School on AstroComputing (ISSAC) for graduate students and post-docs, including offering travel grants covering accommodations, and most travel and meals (held 2010 at UCSC, 2011 at UCB/LBNL, and 2012 at UCSD/SDSC );
- sponsoring UC-HiPACC’s Computational Astronomy Journalism Boot Camp (new this year, UCSC in June 2012);
- co-sponsoring with the Southern California Center for Galaxy Evolution a conference at UC Irvine whose topic this year is the baryon cycle (June 2012);
- co-sponsoring with SCIPP and OCU/Lick the annual Santa Cruz Galaxy Workshop, an invitation-only week-long conference at UC Santa Cruz (August 2012);
- offering travel grants to individual researchers from multiple campuses and labs to collaborate on joint projects in computational astrophysics (announcements of opportunities are posted twice each year);
- offering small matching grants to purchase office computers;
- offering support for undergraduate summer students for computational astrophysics research with UC faculty.
UC/DOE telescopes and supercomputers
The University of California has invested tremendously in astronomy and astrophysics. We have built some of the world’s largest optical telescopes (the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton, California and the W. M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii;, and we are working on the Thirty Meter Telescope and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. We are building two unique state-of-the-art radio telescopes (CARMA, Allen Array). We operate two major observatories and two major space science laboratories (the Space Sciences Laboratory at UC Berkeley and the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences at UCSD. We’ve become increasingly involved in major satellite observatories such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Just as important as observational hardware, however, is the University of California’s extraordinary investment in computational astrophysics and computer simulations. On the campus of UC San Diego is the San Diego Supercomputer Center, home to several supercomputers useful to computational astronomy and just joined in January 2012 by Gordon. The National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, next to UC Berkeley, is the primary scientific computing facility for the DOE’s Office of Science; it is home to the supercomputers Hopper, Franklin and others used by computational astronomers. Across the San Francisco Bay is NASA Ames Research Center, home to the Pleiades supercomputer, ranked in November 2011 as third fastest in the U.S. and seventh fastest in the world. Although NASA Ames is not an official consortium member of UC-HiPACC, it is affiliated with UCSC through the University Affiliated Research Center (UARC), and Ames researchers and the Pleiades supercomputer have been key collaborators for cosmological simulations. There are also mini-supercomputers used for astrophysics at several UC campuses.
The goal of UC-HIPACC is to realize the full potential of these major tools for observation and computation by bringing together computational astrophysicists, computer scientists, computer hardware engineers, and the builders and users of UC telescopes. Collaborations to harness supercomputing for astrophysics are empowering researchers to accomplish two major goals: to understand astrophysical processes through computational simulations, and to analyze in near-real time petabytes (soon to be exabytes) of observational data flowing from telescopes (see [LINK TO PAGE] for stories about some ground-breaking UC computational astronomy research).