Imagine instead of sitting through the same boring old stress test software runs over and over again to test your new hardware, you could sit back and let your PC process radio telescope observations of dying stars. That’s exactly what Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre in Australia has been doing with its newest machine, Setonix, in order to reveal one of the most breathtaking images of a supernova’s remnants I’ve seen in all my years of stargazing.
Named after possibly one of the most adorable animals in the known universe, the quokka (opens in new tab) (Setonix brachyurus), the AMD-powered Pawsey supercomputer is anything but adorable. The team put this new machine through one hell of a benchmark using data gathered by the 36 dish antennas of CSIRO’s Askap (opens in new tab) (Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder) radio telescope, and boy did it prove to be robust (via The Conversation (opens in new tab)).
Setonix was tasked with processing highly complex data—sent through a series of high-speed optical fibres—into separate images spanning hundreds of different frequencies. It then had to combine the images into their final form.