Leftraru supercomputer, the second most powerful supercomputer in Latin America, helped scientists from the Mathematics Modeling Center (CMM) of the University of Chile to detect 61 supernova explosions just a few days before they appeared in the universe. For comparison, previously those explosions were only spotted once every hundred years. To achieve this spectacular result, the team leaded by Francisco Foster started by monitoring the sky from the Observatory Cerro Tololo with a Dark Energy Camera (DECam), the second best in the world for this kind of measurements. Almost a hundred thousand images were sent over about 500 KM to the Leftraru supercomputer at CMM. The supercomputer then analyzed the images (over a billion pixels) with an algorithm that has been developed and optimized since 2013 to recognize supernovas, asteroids and other objects. The scientists have been "teaching" the computer how to recognize supernovas, using machine learning algorithms and supervised learning.
The parallel algorithm was initially created in 2013. A first experiment was tried in 2014, and the team discovered 12 of those supernovas. The program was optimized during 2014 and this recent experiment in 2015 showed that the new version can detect over five times more supernovas than the previous version. Once the supernovas are detected, the supercomputer raises an alert and a notification is sent to the other observatories around the world, giving the coordinates the telescopes should point, in order to observe the new cosmic event.
The results were so impressive, that Forster and his team were invited to present their work at the DECam community science workshop in Arizona USA. This success story not only shows the impact of HPC in our society but also that Latin America can be an important player in the quest for scientific discovery.