Sun Microsystems Sponsors Department of Astrophysics at American Museum

6/24/2004 - Sun Microsystems, Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) announced its sponsorship and technology donation valued at more than $1 million to the American Museum of Natural History. With Sun's technology support, the Museum's Department of Astrophysics is working in collaboration with top universities on research focused on the formation and evolution of stars, star clusters and galaxies.

Sun Microsystems donated two parallel clusters to the Museum, one including 24 Sun Fire V60X servers, and the other including three Sun Fire V1280 servers and one Sun Fire V880z visualization server running the Solaris Operating System. The enterprise-class combination of the Sun Fire servers represents a substantial addition to the computing power of the Museum's Department of Astrophysics. Sun's 40 processor cluster with 304 Gb of RAM is a powerful upgrade. The large amount of RAM in each node provides the research team the ability to process large parallel jobs with low latency.

"The computational power delivered to us by Sun Microsystems' technology has expanded our research capabilities," said Michael J. Novacek, Senior Vice President, Provost, and Curator American Museum of Natural History. "With the addition of these parallel clusters, Museum scientists are already beginning to make exciting discoveries in astrophysics and beyond, and we are very grateful for Sunís generosity."

The addition of the Sun Fire V60X servers also enabled the Museum to put the next-generation digital technology to new use with SonicVision, the innovative digitally animated alternative-rock music show that opened to great acclaim last fall in the Hayden Planetarium in the Museumís Rose Center for Earth and Space. The Museum co-produced the show with MTV2 and musical artist Moby, with music featuring tracks from Radiohead, U2, David Bowie and many other artists. SonicVisionís music virtually ignites this one-of-a-kind musical and visual experience, which uses the Hayden Planetariumís renowned digital dome technology to illuminate the 6,550-square-foot dome with a morphing of colorful visions.

The V60X servers brought another 48 high speed Sun processors (each V60 has two processors) to the system working in unison to constitute a potent computer graphics rendering machine. This 48-processor "render farm" computed the visual effects seen in the show in only a few months using both custom software and standard moviemaking applications. With this incredibly powerful technology, coupled with compelling imagery and contemporary music, the Museum's Hayden Planetarium leads the way for an entirely new generation of audiovisual shows for the 21st century.

"Sun together with the American Museum of Natural History is committed to pushing innovation beyond what most think may be achievable," stated Kim Jones, vice president, Global Education and Research for Sun Microsystems. "The Museum's enhanced supercomputing power is not only advancing academic researchóthrough SonicVision, it is bringing the extraordinary power of computing to the general public."

The Museum's Department of Astrophysics is utilizing the high-performance cluster to run simulations of star formation at many scales. Grid-based simulations at resolutions up to 2563 zones of non-ideal magnetohydrodynamics model the formation of single star-forming cores at scales of 1,000 AU (1 AU is the Earth-Sun distance). At the 1-10 light year scale, chemistry is included to model star-forming clouds of interstellar molecular gas. At the 1,000 light year scale, adaptive mesh refinement techniques allow modeling of the hypersonic turbulent flows resulting from hundreds of supernova explosions. Finally, smoothed particle hydrodynamics allows modeling of star formation in complete spiral galaxies, using more than a million particles.

The research team is also leveraging the computational power of the cluster to examine the effects of star formation, radiation and supernova explosions on intergalactic gas. In other work, Department researchers have been able to detect some of the most metal-poor stars and several hundred erupting novae in the Virgo galaxy cluster through their advanced computing technologies. The Departmentís research program includes both observations from major ground and space-based observatories including the Hubble Space Telescope, and computational modeling using facilities including both the Sun cluster and the Museum's Parallel Computing Facility.

American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History is one of the world's preeminent scientific, educational, and cultural institutions. Since its founding in 1869, the Museum has advanced its global mission to explore and interpret human cultures and the natural world through a wide-reaching program of scientific research, education, and exhibitions. The Museum accomplishes this ambitious goal through its extensive facilities and resources. For more information on the American Museum of Natural History, visit the Museum's Web site at

About Sun Microsystems, Inc.
Since its inception in 1982, a singular vision -- "The Network Is The Computer" -- has propelled Sun Microsystems, Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) to its position as a leading provider of industrial-strength hardware, software and services that make the Net work. Sun can be found in more than 100 countries and on the World Wide Web at

Sun, Sun Microsystems, the Sun logo, Solaris, Sun Fire and The Network Is The Computer are trademarks or registered trademarks of Sun Microsystems, Inc. in the United States and other countries.

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