Kids, don't try this on your home computer. The U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory developed this model of an exploding star's core to help elucidate what happens inside core-collapse supernovae. The model was made using the lab's IBM Blue Gene/P machine, currently ranked seventh on a list of the world's most powerful supercomputers. Argonne's Blue Gene/P boasts more than 160,000 processors, as many as would be found in Giants Stadium were it filled to capacity with people toting dual-core laptops.

"In astrophysics, studying how stars burn and explode pulls together all kinds of physics: hydrodynamics, gravitational physics, nuclear chemistry and energy transport," Mark Hereld of the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility said in a press release. To take on such a massive task, Argonne's computing team developed a method for creating graphic visualizations of data on Blue Gene/P without bouncing the data to graphics processors, which can be cumbersome.

Studying complex problems such as the mechanics of a supernova "often lead[s] to questions that are very complicated to pose mathematically," Hereld said. "But when you can simply watch a star explode through visualization of the simulation, you can gain insight that's not available any other way."