by Byron Connolly

Australia’s largest supercomputer turns one

Jul 31, 20142 mins
Big DataData CenterEducation Industry

Raijin, the Southern Hemisphere’s most powerful supercomputer, on Thursday celebrated its first birthday. It has been in production since mid-June last year.

In its first 12 months of operation, the $26 million machine has discovered the oldest star in the universe and the reason Australia is recording more droughts.

Raijin, which is capable of performing 1.2 petaflops (one thousand trillion calculations per second), and is housed at the Australian National University’s Computational Infrastructure (NCI) performance computing centre.

This month, the ANU said it had found the oldest star in the universe, a discovery it believes may resolve the long-standing discrepancy between observations and predictions of the Big Bang.

The Raijin supercomputer assisted with this discovery by sorting through images generated by ANU’s SkyMapper telescope, which is producing the first digital map of the southern sky. The machine calibrates exposure level and removes overlaps in the images.

Raijin speeds up the time it takes to process about 800 images of the night sky each day.

Meanwhile, data models run by the supercomputer have revealed why southern Australia is recording more droughts.

Dr Steven Phipps from the University of New South Wales used these models to discover that greenhouse gases have disrupted the winds that deliver rain to southern Australia, pushing them towards Antarctica instead.

“I ran a whole suite of climate model simulations to evaluate how different climate drivers might have played a role in the trends we’ve seen in the Southern Ocean’s winds,” Dr Phipps said in May.

“I found that prior to the 20th century, the system is dominated by natural variations. But during the 20th century, human emissions of greenhouse gases start to take over and then become the dominate driver.”

NCI director, professor Lindsay Botton, said Raijin is currently being used by more than 3,000 Australian researchers, government agencies, and industry.

“Almost every field of research now relies on high performance computing. Raijin enables researchers to expands the scale and ambition of their research, while saving time and money,” he said.

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