Chicago’s Center for Astrophysical Thermonuclear
Flashes (Flash Center) has launched the world’s most advanced
supercomputer simulation of a supernova, or exploding star. Covering
sweeping scales of space and time, the simulation demands considerable
computing power. To that end the Energy Department has given 2.7
million processing hours for the project—about 440 percent
more than the Flash Center typically uses in a year.
Supernovae, whose extreme brightness makes them
a marker for measuring distance in the universe, produce heavy elements,
including gold, platinum, and uranium. Scientists at the Flash Center
plan to chart those elements and thus the sequence of events leading
up to detonation.—M.L.