Supernovas are dying stars that explode, causing a sudden burst of radiation that can briefly outshine an entire galaxy, before fading after several weeks or months. Astrophysicists theorize that as the iron core of a star cools and runs short on fuel, a shockwave of energy ripples back through the star and it explodes. Observation has backed up the theory, but so far no scientist has been able to create a complete simulation of a star’s death because of the massive computational power needed.

John Blondin, of the NC State University department of physics, has developed simulations and visualizations that give researchers a better understanding of the dynamics of a supernova and also push the limits of supercomputing processing and network bandwidth. Originally funded by the DOE’s Terascale Supernova Initiative, which involved NC State University and seven other universities, the work aims to answer the question “How does a supernova explode?” and illustrates how supernova shockwaves move through the universe. Blondin’s research takes advantage of the largest machines currently available, including Ranger at the Texas Advanced Computing Center with 63,000 processor cores and Jaguar at the National Center for Computational Sciences with 31,000 processor cores. He utilizes high-speed networks to visualize the data remotely including the high-resolution 16-projector visualization wall located at the RENCI Engagement Center at NC State University.

Project Team

Steve Chall
Theresa-Marie Rhyne


John Blondin, NC State University department of physics