Karl Gebhardt

The University’s Texas Advanced Computing Center will release a new, high performance visualization and data analytics system known as Maverick in February.

Originally slated for deployment in January, Maverick is the result of the center’s partnership with technology companies Hewlett-Packard and NVIDIA. Maverick will serve as the replacement to Longhorn, the collection of software visualization systems currently operating at the center.

According to Kelly Gaither, principal investigator of the Maverick project and the center’s director of visualization, Maverick will be used for scientific research and was designed as an interactive, remote visualization and analytics tool. The system will assist in analyzing mass amounts of scientific data alongside the University‘s supercomputer Stampede, launched to provide an interactive environment for researchers last March.

The research and information collected and analyzed with Maverick will be publicly accessible by the scientific and engineering community. Though initially designed for researchers, Maverick will be available to students through their advisers, according to astrophysics professor Karl Gebhardt.  

Gebhardt said the purpose of systems like Maverick is the ability for users to obtain huge amounts of data, access it quickly and efficiently manipulate that data with software tools. Maverick will be an improvement upon Longhorn in all of these facets.

“I have been using [the center’s] resources to study black holes, including the largest black holes in the universe, and dark matter around galaxies,” Gebhardt said. “Maverick will be essential for our future work with HETDEX, the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment. We will generate many petabytes of data, with the goal of understanding how the universe expands over time. These results will allow us to understand the formation, evolution and long-term fate of the universe.”

Michael Teng, a computer science graduate student, said Maverick’s ability to collect and analyze large amounts of data is useful during scientific investigations.

“[Maverick] utilizes a lot of graphics processing units to accelerate the visualization of large amounts of data,” Teng said. “A lot of scientific problems have to do with the movement of particles, or something that has millions of parts. The best way to demonstrate what happens in the simulation is to play a video of what happens using the system.” 

Maverick contains 132 NVIDIA Telsa K40 graphics processing units, or GPUs, according to Scott Misage, high performance computing engineering director for Hewlett-Packard. Computer sciences senior Craig Yeh said the large amount of GPUs aids in the speed of data analysis. 

“[GPUs] are mostly used for problems that are easily parallelized, allowing for faster calculations,” Yeh said. “Additionally, you can use the GPUs to render the data into videos or stream live visualizations to the researchers and allow for interactivity.”

Image of lenticular galaxy NGC 1277 taken with Hubble Space Telescope. This small, flattened galaxy contains one of the most massive central black holes ever found. At 17 billion solar masses, the black hole weighs an extraordinary 14% of the total galaxy mass. (Credit: NASA/ESA/Andrew C. Fabian)

A discovery made with the help of UT-Austin equipment and research has thrown a supermassive wrench into astronomers’ understanding of black holes and how they form.

Using a telescope at UT’s McDonald Observatory, astronomers discovered a black hole so big it challenges current theories regarding how black holes form and how they interact with galaxies. With the mass of 14 billion suns, the black hole, found in a galaxy 220 million light years away, makes up 14 percent of its home galaxy’s mass and may be the largest black hole ever discovered. The average black hole makes up 0.1 percent of its galaxy’s mass.

This diagram shows how the diameter of the 17-billion-solar-mass black hole in the heart of galaxy NGC 1277 compares with the orbit of Neptune around the Sun. The black hole is eleven times wider than Neptune's orbit. Shown here in two dimensions, the "edge" of the black hole is actually a sphere. This boundary is called the "event horizon," the point from beyond which, once crossed, neither matter nor light can return. (Credit: D. Benningfield/K. Gebhardt/StarDate)


A team of astronomers made the discovery as part of an ongoing study of black holes and their galaxies. UT astronomy professor and study team member Karl Gebhardt said the team initially discovered this black hole more than a year and a half ago.

“We looked at it and we said ‘No, I don’t believe it,’” Gebhardt said. “We went back, ran some tests, looked at the data, ran a lot of models. We just did tons of work trying to understand if this was real or not. We can’t make it go away, so we’re pretty confident it’s real at this point.”

While much is still unknown about black holes, which are essential components in the construction of galaxies, Gebhardt said this particular massive black hole challenges several theories.

“The black hole is a significant component for how a galaxy forms and how it evolves,” Gebhardt said. “There are lots of theories for why there is a relationship between the mass of a black hole and the mass of a galaxy.”

This discovery challenges the previous theory that galaxies form before black holes do. It is similar to the circular philosophical debate about the chicken and the egg. Gebhardt said previous theories argued that galaxies form, material gathers in the middle of the galaxy where the black holes start operating and then the galaxy feeds the black hole and its mass grows. But based on current understandings, a galaxy could not give rise to a black hole that makes up 14 percent of its mass.

“We don’t know of a mechanism to get that much material into the middle of a galaxy to grow a black hole to be this massive,” Gebhardt said.

In a statement, Remco van den Bosch, a post doctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany and lead author of the study, said astronomers are still exploring many different theories about black holes.

“At the moment there are three completely different mechanisms that all claim to explain the link between black hole mass and host galaxies’ properties. We do not understand yet which of these theories is best,” van den Bosch said.

Gebhardt says it is not clear yet if this black hole is just unusual or is indicative of a trend.

“This is a big universe. There are 100 billion galaxies out there; you’re going to get some weird ones,” Gebhardt said. “But if we find this to be a pattern, which is my suspicion, then we are going to have to modify the theories for how you grow a black hole.”
 

NGC 1277 (center) is embedded in the nearby Perseus galaxy cluster. All the elliptical and round yellow galaxies in the picture are located in this cluster. NGC 1277 is a relatively compact galaxy compared to the galaxies around it. The Perseus cluster is 250 million light years from us. (Credit: David W. Hogg, Michael Blanton, and the SDSS Collaboration)

Astronomers are observing galaxies for this study with the Hobby-Eberly Telescope at the McDonald Observatory, which Gebhardt said was key to this project.

“The fact that it is such a big telescope, it has such powerful instruments and we have so much time — those are the three main things. That is why it worked,” Gebhardt said. “We would not have been able to get this amount of data out of another telescope.”

 

 

Image of lenticular galaxy NGC 1277 taken with Hubble Space Telescope. This small, flattened galaxy contains one of the most massive central black holes ever found. At 17 billion solar masses, the black hole weighs an extraordinary 14% of the total galaxy mass. (Credit: NASA/ESA/Andrew C. Fabian)

Theories about how black holes are grown inside a galaxy may have to be modified because of a recent discovery astronomers made using UT’s Hobby-Eberly Telescope.

While working on a study to better understand how galaxies grow and form together, astronomers discovered a massive black hole with a size relative to its galaxy bigger than any before. Discovered in galaxy NGC 1277, the black hole makes up 14 percent of the galaxy’s mass. Usually, black holes make up .1 percent of  a galaxy’s mass. This black hole has the mass of 17 billion suns.

This diagram shows how the diameter of the 17-billion-solar-mass black hole in the heart of galaxy NGC 1277 compares with the orbit of Neptune around the Sun. The black hole is eleven times wider than Neptune's orbit. Shown here in two dimensions, the "edge" of the black hole is actually a sphere. This boundary is called the "event horizon," the point from beyond which, once crossed, neither matter nor light can return. (Credit: D. Benningfield/K. Gebhardt/StarDate)

Karl Gebhardt, UT professor and member of the study, said the black hole “stuck out like a sore thumb.”

“It just has such an extreme black hole mass compared to its galaxy, that it is really going to strain the theories as to how you grow a black hole inside a galaxy,” Gebhardt said.

The study is ongoing, but Gebhardt said if they find other galaxies in similar situations then this could contradict current black hole theories.

“If this is an extreme oddball galaxy, then, you know, odd things happen, this is a big universe, you’re going to get some weird ones now and then,” Gebhardt said. “But if we find these to be a pattern, which is my suspicion now, then we are going to have to modify the theories for how you grow a black hole.” 

NGC 1277 (center) is embedded in the nearby Perseus galaxy cluster. All the elliptical and round yellow galaxies in the picture are located in this cluster. NGC 1277 is a relatively compact galaxy compared to the galaxies around it. The Perseus cluster is 250 million light years from us. (Credit: David W. Hogg, Michael Blanton, and the SDSS Collaboration)

UT's telescope finds massive black hole, challenges former theories

Image of lenticular galaxy NGC 1277 taken with Hubble Space Telescope. This small, flattened galaxy contains one of the most massive central black holes ever found. At 17 billion solar masses, the black hole weighs an extraordinary 14% of the total galaxy mass. (Credit: NASA/ESA/Andrew C. Fabian)
Image of lenticular galaxy NGC 1277 taken with Hubble Space Telescope. This small, flattened galaxy contains one of the most massive central black holes ever found. At 17 billion solar masses, the black hole weighs an extraordinary 14% of the total galaxy mass. (Credit: NASA/ESA/Andrew C. Fabian)

Theories about how black holes are grown inside a galaxy may have to be modified because of a recent discovery astronomers made using UT’s Hobby-Eberly Telescope.

While working on a study to better understand how galaxies grow and form together, astronomers discovered a massive black hole with a size relative to its galaxy bigger than any before. Discovered in galaxy NGC 1277, the black hole makes up 14 percent of the galaxy’s mass. Usually, black holes make up .1 percent of  a galaxy’s mass. This black hole has the mass of 17 billion suns.

This diagram shows how the diameter of the 17-billion-solar-mass black hole in the heart of galaxy NGC 1277 compares with the orbit of Neptune around the Sun. The black hole is eleven times wider than Neptune's orbit. Shown here in two dimensions, the "edge" of the black hole is actually a sphere. This boundary is called the "event horizon," the point from beyond which, once crossed, neither matter nor light can return. (Credit: D. Benningfield/K. Gebhardt/StarDate)

Karl Gebhardt, UT professor and member of the study, said the black hole “stuck out like a sore thumb.”

“It just has such an extreme black hole mass compared to its galaxy, that it is really going to strain the theories as to how you grow a black hole inside a galaxy,” Gebhardt said.

The study is ongoing, but Gebhardt said if they find other galaxies in similar situations then this could contradict current black hole theories.

“If this is an extreme oddball galaxy, then, you know, odd things happen, this is a big universe, you’re going to get some weird ones now and then,” Gebhardt said. “But if we find these to be a pattern, which is my suspicion now, then we are going to have to modify the theories for how you grow a black hole.” 

NGC 1277 (center) is embedded in the nearby Perseus galaxy cluster. All the elliptical and round yellow galaxies in the picture are located in this cluster. NGC 1277 is a relatively compact galaxy compared to the galaxies around it. The Perseus cluster is 250 million light years from us. (Credit: David W. Hogg, Michael Blanton, and the SDSS Collaboration)

The supercomputer in the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) will receive a $10 million donation to advance the science it does. Astronomy professor Karl Gebhardt is one member of a team using the computer, and he says his research will benefit from the advancements by processing a more enormous amount of data.

Photo Credit: Raveena Bhalara | Daily Texan Staff

The Texas Advanced Computing Center will receive a $10 million private donation to advance the supercomputer center’s data-driven science.

The Peter O’Donnell Foundation has donated in past years to support the University’s research efforts at the computing center, which will use part of the money to construct a computing system to handle and analyze large amounts of data. Alison Preston, an assistant psychology and neurobiology professor, said the donation will help the Preston Lab, where studies are being conducted to show how the brain implements human memory.

“When we test individuals in the CAT scanner, we take thousands of pictures of their brain across the one to one-and-half hour that they are in there,” Preston said. “You need a lot of space to store large quantities of data and that is one thing new resources offered by the funding will provide.”

Preston said the donation provided to the computing center and its advanced data system will help analyze data more quickly.

“Using a personal computer could take several days to fully analyze an individual subject,” Preston said. “It will allow us to speed up the analysis of data, and we can therefore answer the scientific questions that we’re interested in.”

Astronomy professor Karl Gebhardt said he and his team will use the computing center as a data storage and analysis base for their observation of the expansion of the universe.

Gebhardt and his team will trace the detailed expansion of the universe through the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment, he said.

“Our project will have an enormous amount of data, about three to five years total, and we simply do not have the funds within our project and department to handle such an amount,” Gebhardt said.

Printed on Thursday, February 23, 2012 as: Computing center receives $10 million

The Academy of Medicine, Engineering & Science of Texas 2012 Annual Conference "Energy of Life" held at the Omni Hotel in Houston, Texas January 12-154, 2012.

Photo Credit: Kim Christensen | Daily Texan Staff

Astronomy professor Karl Gebhardt is a Herman and Joan Suit Professor of Astrophysics in the department of astronomy. On Jan. 12, Gebhardt received the Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Science from The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas, or TAMEST. The award recognizes his work and discoveries on the formation of black holes and galaxies. Each recipient receives a $25,000 honorarium and an invitation to the Annual TAMEST Conference.

“We chose Gebhardt because he is considered the world expert in his field,” said TAMEST spokesman Kent Nutt. “He has massed the most black holes out of anyone in the world.”

TAMEST brings together some of the top scientific, academic and corporate minds in order to make Texas a national leader in research, Nutt said. Gebhardt currently is researching dark energy, which is a theorized force that goes against the universe’s gravitational pull and pulls it apart, Nutt said.

“Dr. Gebhardt and his colleagues have outlined a unique approach to the study of dark energy using the Hobby-Eberly Telescope at McDonald Observatory,” Nutt said. “They expect their result will be the most accurate measure of dark energy for many years into the future.”

Lara Eakins, laboratory and technical services supervisor, said the department is very proud of all the recognition professor Gebhardt receives and brings to the University.

“Its wonderful anytime someone in our department receives recognition,” Eakins said. “It not only reflects well on them but it does on our department as well.”

Printed on Friday, February 3, 2012 as: Professor recognized for work