Computational astrophysics is a central part of modern astronomical research. The conditions of astrophysical environments (stars, galaxies, the space between them) are impossible to recreate in the laboratory and are often too complex to describe with simple mathematical models. By constructing complex computer models of the essential physical processes, we can better interpret observational results and improve our understanding of the inner workings of astrophysical environments. In this sense computational astrophysics can be said to be the experimental branch of astronomical research. The ever increasing power of computers allow us to perform ever more detailed simulations of complex astronomical phenomena.

At the Department of Astronomy, development of computational tools spans research areas from solar physics to cosmology. We specialize in the development of computational tools for gas dynamics (with and without magnetic fields) and radiative transfer. Simulations using these computer models are run on parallel systems and supercomputers.

Simulated image of the death of a massive star. Image credit E. O'Connor, K.C. Pan, YT

The central engines of core-collapse supernovae are where neutron stars and black holes are formed. In these environments, all four fundamental forces play an important role.  We need complex computational models to capture all this physics together in one simulation: general relativity to determine the gravity correctly, neutrino radiation transport and detailed neutrino interactions to capture neutrino cooling and heating, three dimensional hydrodynamics over a large dynamic range to capture the turbulence and convection taking place, and detailed nuclear theory to describe the interactions between nucleons at nuclear densities and above. For this, we use the FLASH hydrodynamics framework and perform simulations on some of the largest supercomputers in the world. 

 

For contact information, visit the List of staff.