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Check out this supercomputer’s stunning image of a supernova remnant

Australia’s newest supercomputer has crunched masses of data to create a stunning image of a supernova remnant.

The supercomputer — named Setonix after Western Australia’s favorite animal, the quokka (Setonix brachyurus) — created the highly detailed image using data collected by ASKAP (Australian Square Kilometre Array) radio telescope, which is operated by CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation), the country’s science agency.

Setonix is located at the Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre in Perth and is a key part of the facility’s recent $70 million upgrade. The supercomputer is being installed in two stages, with the second stage expected to be up and running by the end of 2022.

Dr. Pascal Elahi, Pawsey’s supercomputing applications specialist, said that processing data from ASKAP’s astronomy surveys “is a great way to stress-test the Setonix system and see what is possible.”

An image of a supernova remnant created by Setonix, Australia's newest supercomputer.
This radio continuum (943.5 MHz) ASKAP image is of the galactic supernova remnant G261.9+5.5, located somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 light years away. It was originally discovered by CSIRO scientist E. R. Hill in 1967, however not much is known about it. The morphology of the remnant revealed in the ASKAP image will aid in studying the remnant and its surrounding medium in unprecedented detail. Researchers hope to retrieve more information about the remnant’s age, size, and type from this data. Credit: Dr Wasim Raja/CSIRO, Dr Pascal Elah/Pawsey

Dr. Wasim Raja, a researcher on CSIRO’s ASKAP team, said the challenges in imaging a complex object like a supernova remnant (essentially the clouds of material that emerge from the explosion of a huge star at the end of its life) made it the ideal dataset for testing Setonix’s processing software.

“Setonix’s large, shared memory will allow us to use more of our software features and further enhance the quality of our images,” Raja said. “This means we will be able to unearth more from the ASKAP data.”

When the second stage of Setonix is fully deployed, the supercomputer will be up to 30 times more powerful than the combined capability of Pawsey’s earlier systems, Galaxy and Magnus.

The increased processing power means that we can expect even more incredible images from Setonix as ASKAP plans to send it more data from larger and deeper surveys of the sky.

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Trevor Mogg
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