Tsokaros receives $597,000 NSF grant for the Compact Object CALculator (COCAL) code

2/8/2024 Jessica Raley for ICASU

Written by Jessica Raley for ICASU

Antonios Tsokaros, research professor at Illinois Physics, received National Science Foundation (NSF) funding to create open-source computational tools to address current challenges in multi-messenger astronomy. Together with Co-PI Roland Haas, a senior researcher at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), Tsokaros will create open-source, community-driven software that enhances and expands the Compact Object CALculator (COCAL).


Over the past 15 years, Tsokaros co-developed COCAL with Koji Uryu, a physics professor at the University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa, Japan. The purpose of COCAL was to provide numerical solutions for compact objects, such as neutron stars and black holes. This code has already allowed scientists to calculate numerical solutions for many self-gravitating systems, some for the first time (e.g. binary spinning neutron/quark stars, black hole disks, and isolated magnetized neutron stars). These models have been used by leading groups around the world, including at Princeton, Perimeter Institute, and the Max-Planck Institute for Gravitation.


The enhanced software will allow users to simulate more complex systems, such as binary magnetized neutron stars, as well as mixed binary systems containing a magnetized neutron star and a black hole. One aspect of this new project is to find ways to connect COCAL with other open-source evolution codes, providing the astrophysics community modern and accurate modeling tools that are not currently available.


Before these calculations can be completed, Tsokaros and Haas will have to make COCAL faster and parallelizable. Tsokaros says, “Right now, the code is serial; a typical simulation of an isolated magnetized neutron star can take a week. Making the code faster is neither a luxury nor computer science gymnastics, but a necessity in order to study these systems and understand their physical properties.”


According to Tsokaros, this open-source code will be a valuable addition in the quiver of existing Illinois Physics codes, including those developed by professors Charles Gammie, Stu Shapiro and Helvi Witek, and will fill an important gap in the modeling of astrophysical sources.


Tsokaros plans to hire several graduate students to work on the project, which is funded for three years. Interested students should reach out to him directly for more information.


This work is funded by the Cyberinfrastructure for Sustained Scientific Innovation program at NSF, a program specifically designed to support new software development.


The images below are based on equations solved using the COCAL software. Click on the information icons to learn more.

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This story was published February 8, 2024.