Special Colloquium: Wednesday, February 13, 2019: Simulating Protoplanetary Disks Using GPUs

Event Date: 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019 - 4:00pm

Event Location: 

  • KITP Auditorium
  • Special Physics Colloquium

Protoplanetary disks are gas-rich disks around young stars, and cradles of planets. Observations of these disks have revealed that they are all rich in features, such as gaps and spiral arms, hinting at planet formation processes. To understand these implications, it is often necessary to model the gravitational interaction between the disks and their planets using 3D hydrodynamics simulations. These simulations have stringent requirements on both resolution and duration; millions of grid cells and thousands of orbits (or similarly, tens of thousands of sound crossing time) are typically needed. This overwhelming numerical cost has been a bottleneck in planet formation studies. In this talk, I will discuss how we are able to lower this cost by an order of magnitude by adapting to GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) computing. I will describe my GPU-based hydrodynamics code PEnGUIn, and explain the optimizations that allow it to reach a speed of about 100 million cells per second per GPU, in 3D spherical coordinates. I will present results from PEnGUIn simulations, where we not only model specific disks in detail, but also perform parameter space studies to provide quantitative links between observables, such as disk morphologies and kinematics, and the properties of potential planets embedded in disks. In the end, I will also discuss other board applications of GPU computing in astronomical research.


Jeffrey Fung, UC Berkeley