Marrying Simulation to Observation: Applications of Simulation, Visualization, and Analysis Techniques in Astrophysics
A unique aspect of the science of astronomy is the inability to perform controlled experiments. Observatories and detectors observe light across the electromagnetic spectrum from a variety of sources, but detailed physical models of the source and possible sources of contamination must be constructed in order to understand the origin of the intensity and spectrum of the radiation. High-resolution simulations of astrophysical objects and processes are now commonplace, but establishing a link to the observational data is essential for validation of these models.
High-performance computing makes possible not only the simulations themselves but also the development of powerful tools for visualization and analysis of simulation data, including the construction of synthetic observations in order to make "apples to apples" comparisons with the "real" data. I will discuss applications of these techniques to my research in galaxy cluster mergers, showing how we combine multiphysics numerical simulations with multiwavelength synthetic observations to constrain models for the microphysics of the cluster's thermal gas and high-energy particle content.