Terrapin Fast: New Zaratan High-Performance Computer Boosts UMD Researchers’ Problem-Solving Power

When your brain can’t quite handle the math, there’s always your computer to help. For University of Maryland researchers from every school and college whose personal computers have also reached their limits, now there’s Zaratan.

Named for a massive, mythical turtle with roots in medieval Arabic literature, UMD’s new high-performance computer (commonly called a “supercomputer”) can easily crunch through complex computations of the sort that are increasingly central to studies in astronomy, physics, atmospheric science, chemistry and many other disciplines.

University leaders will introduce the new computer in a grand opening celebration tomorrow at the Adele H. Stamp Student Union, while saying farewell to the university’s previous supercomputer, Deepthought2, which supported the publication of some 600 scientific papers.

“To put it simply, it’s a critical tool for science,” said Jeff Hollingsworth, UMD’s vice president of information technology and chief information officer. “In order to solve the grand challenges our researchers are working on—questions about climate and weather, next-generation batteries and clean energy technology, drug discovery—you need high-performance computing because all of those present substantial compute problems.”

In its final years, Deepthought2 performed important calculations for the recent NASA DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) mission that involved many Maryland scientists, including astronomy Professor Derek Richardson, a DART investigation team lead as well as one of UMD’s most prolific high-performance computer users.

“Zaratan is a tremendous resource for the university and certainly for the astronomy department,” he said. The new computer will handle everything Deepthought2 did, including studies of black holes, the dynamics of solar system collisions and planetary explorations, but even faster.

What makes Zaratan more super than its predecessors?

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