This award supports the purchase of a supercomputer that will be used by researchers in California State University Fullerton's (CSUF's) Gravitational-Wave Physics and Astronomy Center (GWPAC). Gravitational waves are ripples of warped space and time; experiments such as the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (Advanced LIGO) will soon have the astrophysical reach to observe gravitational waves from colliding black holes and neutron stars. Observing as many of these waves as possible and learning as much as possible about their sources require a generation of students with extensive knowledge of the high-performance computing (HPC) hardware and software used to model and detect gravitational waves. GWPAC will use the supercomputer to train student researchers in HPC and gravitational-wave science, empowering students to make significant contributions to the field of gravitational-wave physics and astronomy. GWPAC researchers will use the supercomputer to help maximize the scientific payoff of Advanced LIGO by i) simulating colliding black holes and neutron stars to predict the gravitational waves they emit, ii) developing tools to identify and remove artifacts in detector data that could mimic gravitational wave signals, and iii) investigating whether gravitational-wave observations can help us learn how matter behaves in the extreme conditions present in neutron stars.
The imminent direct detection of gravitational waves, nearly a century after Einstein predicted their existence, promises to inaugurate a new era of astronomy. Accurate predictions of the expected waveforms, thorough characterization of the detectors, and exploration of the potential for extracting astrophysical information from detections each require HPC. This award will leverage existing infrastructure to double the number of compute cores (from 240 to 480) of CSUF's first research HPC cluster of its scale. GWPAC researchers will use the cluster to simulate many more collisions of black holes and neutron stars, to develop new tools to characterize and assess data-quality impacts on the Advanced LIGO detectors, and to explore how including more realistic astrophysics in neutron-star waveform models could broaden the information we can extract from detections to include the neutron-star equation of state. The expanded cluster will magnify GWPAC's students' scientific impact and will strengthen CSUF's links with external collaborations. The cluster will provide students at CSUF, a primarily undergraduate and Hispanic-serving institution, with enhanced opportunities to acquire transferable computing skills while playing important roles in preparing for the first direct detections of gravitational waves.