How Do Standard Candles Illuminate Knowledge of the Universe?

PI Name: 
Don Lamb
PI Email:
The University of Chicago
Allocation Program: 
Allocation Hours at ALCF: 
70 Million
Research Domain: 

Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia) are among the brightest exploding stars in the universe. Observations using SNe Ia as “standard candles” led to the discovery of dark energy. Most scientists believe that using SNe Ia to determine the properties of dark energy will require a much better understanding of these explosions.

Scientific Approach

Researchers are using the FLASH code and time on the IBM Blue Gene/P at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF) awarded through the U.S. Department of Energy's INCITE program to conduct the first comprehensive, systematic validation of current models of SNe Ia and to determine the fundamental properties of buoyancy-driven turbulent nuclear combustion—a physical process that is key to SNe Ia but is not fully understood.


The team has simulated all current models of Type Ia supernovae on the ALCF's Blue Gene/P. These simulations led to the discovery of robust signatures for the different SN Ia models, holding out the promise that observations can discriminate among them. The team also has simulated buoyancy-driven turbulent nuclear combustion. These simulations show that the flame surface is complex at large scales and smooth at small scales, suggesting that the burning rate may be determined by the properties of the flame at large scales.

INCITE Contribution

The time awarded to the Center under the INCITE program has been essential to the team's ability to achieve these scientific results.