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Primeur weekly 2015-07-20

Special

HPC is a strong growth market but power, cooling and parallel software issues need to be solved ...

Focus

Fortissimo to offer HPC simulation for SMEs and manufacturing industry ...

Exascale supercomputing

SmartRack appeared at International Supercomputing Conference 2015 ...

Crowd computing

IBM's virtual supercomputer finds clean water clue - crowd computing privided by citizens ...

BOINC has launched a new governance model ...

Focus on Europe

EU open source software project receives green light ...

ETP4HPC, EXDCI and SESAME Net - new HPC initiatives in Europe's Horizon 2020 ...

Middleware

Big PanDA and Titan merge to tackle torrent of LHC's full-energy collision data ...

OpenMP ARB announces line-up of world-class keynotes, speakers, tutorials and panel sessions for Annual OpenMPCon Developer Conference ...

Hardware

Geoff Lyon, CoolIT Systems, is Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year industry finalist ...

Intersect360 Research restructures access to reports ...

HP and NEC collaborate to advance adoption of network functions virtualization technology ...

SGI broadens access to 8-socket plus configurations with Dell for customers running SAP HANA ...

IBM Research Alliance produces industry's first 7nm node test chips ...

Cutting cost and power consumption for Big Data ...

Tsubame KFC and plans for Tsubame-3 supercomputer explained by Satoshi Matsuoka ...

Applications

Neptune's badly behaved magnetic field ...

IBM and Mubadala to bring Watson to the Middle East & North Africa ...

Tsinghua University named ISC Cluster Competition Champion for the second time ...

Rolls-Royce first company to join supercomputing initiative that breaks down barriers between industry and academia ...

The Cloud

IBM Cloud delivers supercomputing power to fuel innovation ...

OVH.com launches world's first ARMv8-based public Cloud powered by Cavium's ThunderX workload optimized processor ...

Researchers call for support for data in the cloud to facilitate genomics research ...

i-Virtualize strengthens its Cloud offerings in North America with VersaStack solution by Cisco and IBM ...

Oracle introduces Oracle Order Management Cloud and Oracle Global Order Promising Cloud, enabling order fulfillment in the Cloud ...

Neptune's badly behaved magnetic field


Lars Mejnertsen/Imperial College London
9 Jul 2015 Llandudno - Combining 26-year old data with supercomputer simulations, a team of scientists at Imperial College London have modelled Neptune's magnetic field in detail for the first time. The researchers find that the furthest planet from the Sun has a badly behaved magnetic field, but one that may help us understand the risks from 'space weather' around Earth. Lars Mejnertsen, of Imperial College London, presented their findings in a presentation on 8 July at the RAS National Astronomy Meeting at Venue Cymru, in Llandudno, Wales.

Neptune, the outermost planet of the solar system, has only been visited by one spacecraft, Voyager 2, which zoomed past in 1989 and is now on its way to interstellar space. The Voyager 2 dataset was incredibly rich, but raised more questions than answers. One of the biggest puzzles is that Neptune's rotation axis is tilted relative to the Sun, its magnetic axis is not at all aligned with its rotation and its magnetic field environment has a lopsided shape.

Team member Dr. Adam Masters, a planetary scientist at Imperial, commented: "Imagine taking the Earth, tipping it over diagonally, and then moving its magnetic north pole to central Europe, and you start to get a sense of what Neptune is like. The planet's unique magnetic field is still very poorly understood, and our new modelling represents a big leap forward."

Understanding Neptune is important because it challenges our basic understanding of how the magnetic fields of planets and exoplanets can behave, and the lessons learned modelling Neptune can also be applied to understand how the Earth's magnetic field affects space weather.

Although new missions to Neptune have been proposed, none are likely to arrive for many decades. So for now, the only way to better understand how the planet works is through computer simulations. In a new example of interdisciplinary research at Imperial College London, the space and atmospheric physics group and the plasma physics group have been working together to address this challenge.

Prof. Jerry Chittenden of the plasma physics group worked with Dr. Jonathan Eastwood, a lecturer in the space and atmospheric physics group, and PhD student Lars Mejnertsen. The scientists took simulations designed to understand plasma experiments in laboratories on Earth and applied them to space environments. Plasma, the gaseous 'fourth state' of matter consisting of electrically charged particles, is commonly found in space, albeit in highly rarefied amounts, and this causes planetary magnetic fields to form structures in space known as magnetospheres.

Modelling an entire planet needs a vast simulation, so the team turned to the Science and Technology Facilities Council's DiRAC supercomputer. DiRAC's ability to use hundreds or even thousands of processors in parallel was crucial to vastly speeding up the calculations.

The results show that Neptune's magnetic field is constantly rotating and changing, and has revealed that the structure is quite different to the cartoons that were inferred from the original Voyager 2 measurements. Dr. Masters commented: "Magnetic fields are tricky to understand, even when they are in simple systems. But Neptune is particularly badly behaved. Its odd properties challenge our basic ideas on how magnetospheres work."

"Modelling a whole planet is no easy task. But supercomputers now make it possible and the new simulations explain a lot of what Voyager saw all those years ago. For example, we can now see how the solar wind - the stream of electrically charged particles from the Sun - enters and circulates around Neptune's magnetic field. The combination of the dramatic planetary rotation and this circulation pattern is why Voyager 2 found a 'lopsided' magnetosphere."

Understanding Neptune better will also help astronomers understand planets outside the solar system. A large number of those found to date are Neptune-sized, so studying the gas giant should give an insight into conditions on those other distant worlds.

And while Neptune is one of the most exotic planets in the solar system, this work also finds applications closer to home, for models of the magnetic field of the Earth. The Earth's field plays a key role in controlling space weather, which can harm technology in space and on the ground. Basic research into the magnetic fields of other planets will help scientists improve our ability to forecast space weather events such as geomagnetic storms.
Source: Royal Astronomical Society

Back to Table of contents

Primeur weekly 2015-07-20

Special

HPC is a strong growth market but power, cooling and parallel software issues need to be solved ...

Focus

Fortissimo to offer HPC simulation for SMEs and manufacturing industry ...

Exascale supercomputing

SmartRack appeared at International Supercomputing Conference 2015 ...

Crowd computing

IBM's virtual supercomputer finds clean water clue - crowd computing privided by citizens ...

BOINC has launched a new governance model ...

Focus on Europe

EU open source software project receives green light ...

ETP4HPC, EXDCI and SESAME Net - new HPC initiatives in Europe's Horizon 2020 ...

Middleware

Big PanDA and Titan merge to tackle torrent of LHC's full-energy collision data ...

OpenMP ARB announces line-up of world-class keynotes, speakers, tutorials and panel sessions for Annual OpenMPCon Developer Conference ...

Hardware

Geoff Lyon, CoolIT Systems, is Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year industry finalist ...

Intersect360 Research restructures access to reports ...

HP and NEC collaborate to advance adoption of network functions virtualization technology ...

SGI broadens access to 8-socket plus configurations with Dell for customers running SAP HANA ...

IBM Research Alliance produces industry's first 7nm node test chips ...

Cutting cost and power consumption for Big Data ...

Tsubame KFC and plans for Tsubame-3 supercomputer explained by Satoshi Matsuoka ...

Applications

Neptune's badly behaved magnetic field ...

IBM and Mubadala to bring Watson to the Middle East & North Africa ...

Tsinghua University named ISC Cluster Competition Champion for the second time ...

Rolls-Royce first company to join supercomputing initiative that breaks down barriers between industry and academia ...

The Cloud

IBM Cloud delivers supercomputing power to fuel innovation ...

OVH.com launches world's first ARMv8-based public Cloud powered by Cavium's ThunderX workload optimized processor ...

Researchers call for support for data in the cloud to facilitate genomics research ...

i-Virtualize strengthens its Cloud offerings in North America with VersaStack solution by Cisco and IBM ...

Oracle introduces Oracle Order Management Cloud and Oracle Global Order Promising Cloud, enabling order fulfillment in the Cloud ...