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SLAC's Computational Astrophysics group seeks to bridge theoretical and experimental physics communities to bring their combined strength to bear on some of the most challenging and fascinating problems in particle astrophysics and cosmology.
Computing is important to nearly all of SLAC's astrophysics and cosmology scientific activities. This includes theoretical calculations as well as calculations relevant observations and experiments—from simulating telescopes and their data to processing the enormous amounts of data being collected by the instruments. In astrophysics, computing is our only laboratory. If we want to understand what happens when a star gets consumed by a black hole or what happens when galaxies collide it is computing that allows us to experiment. It would take hundreds of millions of years to study the outcome of a galaxy collision. However, programming supercomputers with the equations describing the physics of these amazing events allows us to see what happens on a human timescale. One has to include how gravity tugs on things, how gas pressure and magnetic fields push against it, how dark matter behaves differently from regular matter, how light emitted from gas depletes its thermal energy, and so on. We are able to do this by carefully devising accurate and stable algorithms that capture the enormous length and time scales of these astronomical and cosmological processes.
In this way, SLAC researchers are following how the entire large scale structure of the universe evolved over all of cosmic time. These computations are compared with observed data, which provides input to the models, and refines our understanding of how the universe came to be the way it is.
SLAC's Computational Astrophysics group is part of the research program of the SLAC–Stanford Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology.