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The ecological impact of high-performance computing in astrophysics

Computer use in astronomy continues to increase, and so also its impact on the environment. To minimize the effects, astronomers should avoid interpreted scripting languages such as Python, and favour the optimal use of energy-efficient workstations.

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Fig. 1: Carbon production of a number of common activities among astronomers.
Fig. 2: Energy to solution as a function of code performance.
Fig. 3: Programming language efficiency as a function of the time to solution.


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I thank A. Allen for providing data on the ASCL language usage and L. Butscher for comments and inviting me to present this discussion at the 2020 European Astronomical Society conference. Part of this work was performed using resources provided by the Academic Leiden Interdisciplinary Cluster Environment (Alice), TITAN (LANL) and LGM-II (NWO grant number 621.016.701) We used the Python, Matplotlib, NumPy, Numba and AMUSE open-source packages.

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Portegies Zwart, S. The ecological impact of high-performance computing in astrophysics. Nat Astron 4, 819–822 (2020).

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