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COSMOS plays role in hunt for extraterrestrial life

The COSMOS supercomputer has recently had an important part to play in helping researchers look for methane spectra in planets outside of our solar system. Methane is a terrestrial greenhouse gas which is also a major active component in cool stars and exoplanets. It is widely recognised as a potential sign of life on Earth-like planets.

Researchers from University College London and the University of New South Wales developed a new method of detecting methane at much higher temperatures than before, up to 1,500K/1220°C. The technique involves studying the ways in which planets’ atmospheres absorb starlight. Every atmosphere gives a unique spectrum of absorption lines, depending on the amount of methane present. It is anticipated that the new model will have a big impact on the study of exoplanets, since methane levels are severely underestimated by current methods of detection.

The discovery would not have been possible without the computing power and special shared-memory capability of COSMOS, since the modelling needed billions of spectral lines. The calculations required several million core-hours on DiRAC Facilities.

More information about this exoplanets work can be found here:

http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/0614/170614-methane-spectra

New COSMOS system manager - Dr Juha Jäykkä

On 16th January the CTC will be joined by Dr Juha Jäykkä, who will take over from Andrey Kaliazin as COSMOS Supercomputer System Manager.

Juha has a PhD in theoretical physics from the University of Turku, Finland, and has worked as a postdoctoral researcher in topological solitons. In research support roles he has managed the local part of a HPC cluster acquisition in a multi-university procurement process, acted as an HPC cluster administrator and as a support scientist for Cray supercomputer users, where his responsibilities included code optimisation and porting. Professor Paul Shellard, CTC Director said, "The COSMOS consortium eagerly welcomes Dr Juha Jäykkä with his unique background in mathematical physics, HPC applications support and operations management; we are confident his excellent skill set will push forward our world-leading developmental work in both shared-memory and MIC accelerator programming paradigms."