The team from the University's Department of Physics and Astronomy is presenting findings from their first year of using the "Complexity" computer, the node of DiRAC hosted by the University of Leicester. The other DiRAC nodes are hosted by the Universities of Cambridge, Durham and Edinburgh.
The DiRAC facility was launched in 2012, and has allowed researchers to model physical processes governing the evolution of the Universe in far greater detail than was previously possible.
The team from Leicester's Theoretical Astrophysics Group, within the Department of Physics and Astronomy, are currently using the GBP2 million Complexity computer on a number of exciting projects. One of these looks at feedback from supermassive black holes in galaxy centres - with researchers using DiRAC to model powerful outflows from the black holes and how they affect their host galaxy. This can tell us a lot about the evolution and structure of galaxies - including our own.
It will also help us to model what happens at the stage when a supermassive black hole has expelled or eaten all of the material out of the galaxy - leaving no gas for the formation of new stars.
PhD student Martin Bourne, who is presenting findings from the project at the event on Monday, stated: "Most galaxies have a supermassive black hole in their centre, and there's a stage in the evolution of the galaxy where the black hole grows rapidly by accreting material. This releases a lot of energy in the form of powerful outflows. Previous models assumed that these outflows tend to 'hurt' galaxies by sweeping them clear of gas. This leaves behind only stars, and terminates further growth of the galaxy."
"However, numerical simulations of the past year or so show that it is far more difficult to expel gas from the galaxy if it can form dense cold clumps. Instead of being expelled these clumps actually get compressed and turned into new stars very rapidly."
"Thus we now find that black holes can actually speed up galaxy building early on. Only once the galaxy runs out of cold gas do the black holes remove the rest of the gas and abort any further growth. Our research therefore shows that a black hole's role in galaxy formation is not so uniquely negative as previously thought."
Thanks to Complexity's 4,352 central processing units, the supercomputer can handle 90.5 trillion operations a second - meaning the complicated simulations required for the team's research are not a problem.
Martin Bourne stated: "A simulation that would take months on a desktop computer can be performed in days or less on DiRAC depending on the simulation in question and how many processors are used. Using simulations on DiRAC also has the benefit of allowing us to study very complex and 'messy' systems; this would be next to impossible to achieve using pen-and-paper analytical techniques."
Dr. Mark Wilkinson, a member of the Theoretical Astrophysics Group at the University of Leicester, national co-Chair of DiRAC and the organiser of DiRAC Day 2013, stated: "DiRAC Day 2013 offers a great opportunity to hear about how each of the groups around the country is using the DiRAC facility to make new scientific discoveries. We had very high expectations for DiRAC this year, and it is exciting to see that we have achieved them."
During the event, Leicester researchers are also presenting findings from their other DiRAC research projects - including planet formation within other solar systems and dark matter.
They join over 60 researchers from more than 15 Universities across the UK, along with technical support staff from Leicester and the other three DiRAC sites. All the major computing vendors who supplied DiRAC with hardware are also be attending.
The event is sponsored by OCF, a UK-based high performance server and storage cluster integrator. Dell and Panasas are also supporting aspects of the meeting.
The event is held at the University's Stamford Court conference centre.