When Google introduced google street view, we were amazed. Now it is time for the mapping of the universe. Researchers want to better understand how the universe works. An AI supercomputer should help with this.
At the end of May 2021, the US National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) put the world’s most powerful AI supercomputer into operation. The computer is named Perlmutter, after the American astrophysicist and Nobel laureate in physics, Saul Perlmutter. The room-sized computer is equipped with 6,000 Nvidia graphics processors that can perform four trillion floating-point operations per second. The immense computing power is to be used, among other things, to produce an unusually detailed map of the known universe.
To create the 3D map, the US Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) wants to capture light from 35 million galaxies and 2.4 million quasars. This data is then evaluated with the help of mother-of-pearl in order to create a map from it. For several years, the research team has already selected the most important observation targets, evaluated the colors and shapes of more than 1.6 billion individual galaxies, and collected 4.3 million photos.
“The previous survey was a few million objects, but now we’re going to 35 to 50 million objects,” said physicist and technical director of the multi-year project, Stephen Bailey, in a blog post last year. “This is a huge step forward in the size of the map and the science that can be done with it.”
Expansion of the universe
The further galaxies move away from each other, the more the light emanating from them shifts towards longer, reddish wavelengths. Corresponding measurements should serve as the basis for the 3D map. This, in turn, should ultimately help scientists to better understand the expansion of the universe.
Specifically, the researchers want to understand how the so-called dark energy works, which is considered to be the explanation for the expansion of the universe. “The goal is not so much to find out how much of it there is – we know that around 70 percent of the energy in the universe today is dark energy – but to investigate its properties,” explains the US physicist Kyle who is involved in the DESI project Dawson .