Tree-based solvers for AMR code FLASH - I

Tree-based solvers for adaptive mesh refinement code FLASH - I: gravity and optical depths.


We describe an OctTree algorithm for the MPI-parallel, adaptive mesh-refinement code FLASH, which can be used to calculate the gas self-gravity, and also the angle-averaged local optical depth, for treating ambient diffuse radiation. The algorithm communicates to the different processors only those parts of the tree that are needed to perform the tree walk locally. The advantage of this approach is a relatively low memory requirement, important in particular for the optical depth calculation, which needs to process information from many different directions. This feature also enables a general tree-based radiation transport algorithm that will be described in a subsequent paper, and delivers excellent scaling up to at least 1500 cores. Boundary conditions for gravity can be either isolated or periodic, and they can be specified in each direction independently, using a newly developed generalisation of the Ewald method. The gravity calculation can be accelerated with the adaptive block update technique by partially re-using the solution from the previous time-step. Comparison with the Flash internal multi-grid gravity solver shows that tree based methods provide a competitive alternative, particularly for problems with isolated or mixed boundary conditions. We evaluate several multipole acceptance criteria (MACs) and identify a relatively simple APE MAC which provides high accuracy at low computational cost. The optical depth estimates are found to agree very well with those of the RADMC-3D radiation transport code, with the tree solver being much faster. Our algorithm is available in the standard release of the FLASH code in version 4.0 and later.

galaxies: ISM – gravitation – hydrodynamics – ISM: evolution – radiative transfer

1 Introduction

Solving Poisson’s equation for general mass distributions is a common problem in numerical astrophysics. Grid-based hydrodynamic codes frequently use iterative multi-grid or spectral methods for that purpose. On the other hand, particle codes often use tree-based algorithms. The extensive experience with tree gravity solvers in particle codes can be transferred to the domain of grid-based codes. Here we describe an implementation of the tree-based gravity solver for the Adaptive Mesh Refinement (AMR) code Flash (Fryxell et al., 2000) and show that its efficiency is comparable to the Flash intrinsic multi-grid solver (Ricker, 2008). An advantage of this approach is that the tree code can be used for more general calculations performed in parallel with the gravity; in particular, calculation of the optical depth in every cell of the computational domain with the algorithm developed by Clark et al. (2012) and general radiation transport with the TreeRay algorithm (described in Paper II; Wünsch et al., in prep.).

Hierarchically structured, tree-based algorithms represent a well-established technique for solving the gravitational N-body problem at reduced computational cost (Barnes & Hut, 1986, hereafter BH86). Many Lagrangian codes implement trees to compute the self-gravity of both collisionless (stars or dark matter) and collisional (gas) particles, e.g. Gadget-2 (Springel, 2005), Vine (Wetzstein et al., 2009; Nelson et al., 2009); EvoL (Merlin et al., 2010), Seren, (Hubber et al., 2011), Gandalf (Hubber et al., 2018). The three most important characteristics of the tree algorithm are the tree structure (also called the grouping strategy), the multipole acceptance criterion (MAC) deciding whether to open a child-node or not, and the order of approximation of the integrated quantity within nodes (e.g. mass distribution).

Tree structure: Each node on the tree represents a part of the computational domain, hereafter a volume, and the child-nodes of a given parent-node collectively represent the same volume as the parent-node. The most common ’OctTree’ structure is built by a recursive subdivision of the computational domain, where every parent-node is split into eight equal-volume child-nodes, until we reach the last generation. The nodes of the last generation are called leaf-nodes and they cover the whole computational domain.

Tree structures other than the OctTree are also often used. Bentley (1979) constructs a balanced ”k-d” binary tree by recursively dividing parent-nodes so that each of the resulting child-nodes contains half () of the particles in the parent-node; this tree structure is used in the codes pkdgrav (Stadel, 2001) and Gasoline (Wadsley et al., 2004). In contrast, Press (1986) constructs a binary tree, from the bottom up, by successively amalgamating nearest neighbour particles or nodes into parent nodes. This ”Press-tree” has been further improved by Jernigan & Porter (1989), and is used, for instance, by Benz et al. (1990) and Nelson et al. (2009). More complex structures have been suggested. For example, Ahn & Lee (2008) describe the ”k-means” algorithm, in which a parent-node is adaptively divided into child-nodes according to the particle distribution in the parent-node.

There seems to be no unequivocally superior tree structure. Waltz et al. (2002) compare OctTrees with binary trees, and find that OctTrees provide slightly better performance with the same accuracy. On the other hand, Anderson (1999) argues, on the basis of an analytical study, that certain types of binary trees should provide better performance than OctTrees. Makino (1990) points out that differences in performance are mainly in the tree construction part, and that the tree-walk takes a comparable amount of time in either type of tree-structure. Therefore, the choice of tree-structure should be informed by more technical issues, like the architecture of the computer to be used, other software to which the tree will be linked, and so on.

Multipole acceptance criterion: Another essential part of a tree code is the criterion, or criteria, used to decide whether a given node can be used to calculate the gravitational field, or whether its child-nodes should be considered instead. This is a key factor determining the accuracy and performance of the code. Since this criterion often reduces to deciding whether the multipole expansion representing the contribution from the node in question provides a sufficiently accurate approximation for the calculation of the gravitational potential, it is commonly referred to as the multipole acceptance criterion (MAC). We retain this terminology even though nodes in the code presented here may possess more general properties than just a multipole expansion.

The original BH86 geometric MAC uses a simple criterion, which is purely based on the ratio of the angular size of a given node and its distance to the cell at which the gravitational potential should be computed. More elaborate methods also take into account the mass distribution within a particular node or even constrain the allowed total acceleration error (Salmon & Warren, 1994, SW94; see §2.2.1).

Order of approximation: Springel et al. (2001) suggest that if the gravitational acceleration is computed using multipole moments up to order , then the maximum error is of the order of the contribution from the multipole moment. There is no consensus on where to terminate the multipole expansion of the mass distribution in a node. The original BH86 tree code uses moments up to second order (), i.e. quadrupoles, and many authors follow this choice. Wadsley et al. (2004) find the highest efficiency using in the Gasoline code. On the other hand, SW94 find that their code using the SumSquare MAC is most efficient with , i.e. just monopole moments. This suggests that the optimal choice of may depend strongly on other properties of the code and its implementation, and possibly also on the architecture of the computer. Springel (2005) advocates using just monopole moments on the basis of memory and cache usage efficiency. We follow this approach and consider only monopole moments, i.e. for all implemented MACs.

Further improvements: Tree codes have often been extended with new features or modified to improve their behaviour. Barnes (1990) noted that neighbouring particles interact with essentially the same nodes, and introduced interaction lists that save time during a tree-walk. This idea was further extended by Dehnen (2000, 2002) who describes a tree with mutual node-node interactions. This greatly reduces the number of interactions that have to be calculated, leading – in theory – to an CPU-time dependence on the number of particles, . Dehnen’s implementation also symmetrizes the gravitational interactions to ensure accurate momentum conservation, which is in general not guaranteed with tree-codes. Recently, Potter et al. (2017) develop this so called Fast Multipole Method (FMM) further and implement it into massively parallel cosmological N-body code PKDGRAV3.

Hybrid codes. Tree-codes are also sometimes combined with other algorithms into ’hybrid’ codes. For example, Xu (1995) describes a TreePM code which uses a tree to calculate short-range interactions, and a particle-mesh method (Hockney & Eastwood, 1981) to calculate long-range interactions. The TreePM code has been developed further by Bode et al. (2000); Bagla (2002); Bode & Ostriker (2003); Bagla & Khandai (2009); Khandai & Bagla (2009). There are also general purpose tree codes available, that can work with both N-body and grid-based codes, e.g. the MPI parallel tree gravity solver FLY Becciani et al. (2007).

In this paper we describe a newly developed, cost-efficient, tree-based solver for self-gravity and diffuse radiation that has been implemented into the AMR code FLASH. This code has been developed since 2008, and since FLASH version 4.0 it is a part of the official release. The GPU accelerated tree gravity solver, based on the early version of the presented code, has been developed by Lukat & Banerjee (2016). The paper is organized as follows: In §2 we describe the implemented algorithm, which splits up into the tree-solver (§2.1), the gravity module (§2.2) and the optical depth module (§2.3). Accuracy and performance for several static and dynamic tests are discussed in §3, and we conclude in §4. In appendix A we provide formulae for acceleration in computational domains with periodic and mixed boundary conditions, and in appendix B we give runtime parameters of the code.

2 The algorithm

The flash code (Fryxell et al., 2000) is a complex framework consisting of many inter-operable modules that can be combined to solve a specific problem. The tree code described here can only be used with a subset of the possible flash configurations. The basic requirement is usage of the paramesh-based grid unit (see MacNeice et al. 2000 for a description of the paramesh library); support for other grid units (uniform grid, Chombo) can be added in future. Furthermore, the grid geometry must be 3D Cartesian.

The paramesh library defines the computational domain as a collection of blocks organised into a tree data structure which we refer to as the amr-tree. Each node on the amr-tree represents a block. The block at the top of the amr-tree, corresponding to the entire computational domain, is called the root-block and represents refinement level . The root-block is divided into eight equal-volume blocks having the same shape and orientation as the root-block, and these blocks represent refinement level . This process of block division is then repeated recursively until the blocks created satisfy an adaptive-mesh refinement criterion. The blocks at the bottom of the tree, which are not divided, are called leaf-blocks, and the refinement level of a leaf-block is labelled . In regions where the AMR criterion requires higher spatial resolution, the leaf-blocks are smaller and their refinement level, , is larger (i.e. they are further down the tree).

The number of grid cells in a block (a logically cuboidal collection of cells; see below) must be the same in each direction and equal to where is an arbitrary integer number. In practice, it should be , because most hydrodynamic solvers do not allow blocks containing fewer than cells, in order to avoid overlapping of ghost cells. Note that the above requirements do not exclude non-cubic computational domains, because such domains can be created either by setting up blocks with different physical sizes in each direction or by using more than one root block3 in each direction (Walch et al., 2015).

Within each leaf-block is a local block-tree which extends the amr-tree down to the level of individual grid cells. All block-trees have the same number of levels, . The nodes on a block-tree represent refinement levels nodes here), nodes here), nodes here), and so on. The nodes at the bottom of the block-tree are leaf-nodes, and represent the grid cells on which the equations of hydrodynamics are solved.

Each node – both the nodes on the amr-tree, and the nodes on the local block-trees – stores collective information about the set of grid cells that it contains, e.g. their total mass, the position of the centre of mass, etc.

Our algorithm consists of a general tree-solver implementing the tree construction, communication and tree-walk, and modules which include the calculations of specific physical equations, e.g. gravitational accelerations or optical depths. The tree-solver communicates with the physical modules by means of interface subroutines which allow physical modules, on the one hand to store various quantities on the nodes, and on the other hand to walk the tree accessing the quantities stored on the nodes. When walking the tree, physical modules may use different MACs that reflect the nature of the quantity they are seeking to evaluate. An advantage of this approach is that it makes code maintenance more straightforward and efficient. Moreover, new functionality can be added easily by writing new physical modules or extending existing ones, without needing to change the relatively complex tree-solver algorithm.

The boundary conditions can be either isolated or periodic, and they can be specified in each direction independently, i.e. mixed boundary conditions with one or two directions periodic and the remaining one(s) isolated are allowed (see §2.2).

In the following §2.1, we describe the tree-solver, and in §2.2 and §2.3, respectively, we give descriptions of the gravity module and the module (called OpticalDepth) which calculates heating by the interstellar radiation field.

2.1 Tree-solver

The tree-solver creates and utilises the tree data structure described above. Maintaining a copy of the whole tree on each processor would incur prohibitively large memory requirements. Therefore, only the amr-tree (i.e. the top part of the tree, between the root-block node and the leaf-block nodes) is communicated to all processors. The block-tree within a leaf-block is held on the processor whose domain contains that leaf-block, and communicated wholly or partially to another processor only if it will be needed by that processor during a subsequent tree-walk. The tree-solver itself stores in each tree-node – with the exception of the leaf-nodes – the total mass of the node and the position of its centre of mass, i.e. four floating point numbers. For leaf-nodes (the nodes corresponding to individual grid cells) only their masses are stored, because the positions of their centres of mass are identical to their geometrical centres and are already known. Additionally, each physical module can store any other required quantity on the tree-nodes.

The tree-solver consists of three steps: tree-build, communication and tree-walk. In the tree-build step, the tree is built from bottom up by collecting information from the individual grid cells, summing it, and propagating it to the parent tree-nodes. The initial stages of this step, those that involve the block-trees within individual leaf-blocks, are performed locally. However, as soon as the leaf-block nodes are reached, information has to be exchanged between processors because parent-nodes are not necessarily located on the same processor. At the end of this step, each processor possesses a copy of the amr-tree plus all the block-trees corresponding to leaf-blocks that are located on that processor.

The communication step ensures that each processor imports from all other processors all the information that it will need for the tree-walks, which are subsequently called by the physical modules. To this end, the code considers all pairs of processors, and determines what tree information the one processor (say CPU0; see Figure 1) needs to export to the other processor (say CPU1). To do this, the code walks the block-trees of all the leaf-blocks on CPU0, and applies a suite of MACs (required by the tree-solver itself and the used physical modules) in relation to all the leaf-blocks on CPU1. This suite of MACs determines for each leaf-block on CPU0, the level of its block-tree that delivers sufficient detail to CPU1 to satisfy the resolution requirements of all the physical modules that will be called before the tree is rebuilt. Thus, a leaf-block on CPU0 that has very little physical influence on any of the leaf-blocks on CPU1 (for example by virtue of being very distant or of low mass) may only need to send CPU1 the information stored on its lowest (i.e. coarsest resolution) level, . Conversely, a leaf-block on CPU0 that has a strong influence on at least one of the leaf-blocks on CPU1 (for example by virtue of being very close or very massive) may need to send the information stored on its highest (finest resolution) level, . In order to simplify communication, the required nodes of each block-tree on CPU0 are then stored in a one-dimensional array, ordered by level, starting at and proceeding to higher levels (see Figure 2). Finally, the arrays from all the block-trees on CPU0 are collated into a single message and sent to CPU1. This minimizes the number of messages sent, thereby ensuring efficient communication, even on networks with high latency.

Note that this communication strategy in which tree-nodes are communicated differs from a commonly used one in which particles (equivalents of grid cells) are communicated instead (e.g. Gadget Springel, 2005). In this way, the communication is completed before the tree-walk is executed and the tree-walk runs locally, i.e. separately on each processor. The communication strategy adopted in this work provides a significant benefit for the OpticalDepth and the TreeRay modules as they work with a large amount of additional information per grid cell (or particle), which does not have to be stored and communicated (see §2.3).

The final step is a tree-walk, in which the whole tree is traversed in a depth-first manner for each grid cell or in general for an arbitrary target point (e.g. the position of a sink particle). During the process, the suite of MACs is evaluated recursively for each node and if it is acceptable for the calculation, subroutines of physical modules that do the calculation are called, otherwise its child-nodes are opened.

The tree-solver itself only implements a simple geometric MAC (Barnes & Hut, 1986), which accepts a node if its angular size, as seen from the target point, , is smaller than a user-set limit, . Specifically, if is the linear size of the node and is the position of the centre of mass of the node, the node is accepted (and so its child-nodes need not be considered) if


It has been shown by Salmon & Warren (1994, hereafter SW94) that the BH86 MAC can lead to unexpectedly large errors when the target point is relatively far from the centre of mass of the node but very close to its edge. Several alternative geometric MACs were suggested to mitigate this problem (Salmon & Warren, 1994; Dubinski, 1996). Following Springel (2005), we extend the geometric MAC by setting the parameter such that a node is only accepted if the target point lies outside a cuboid times larger than the node (with the default value ). Additional MACs specific to the physical modules are implemented by those modules (see §2.2).

The tree-walk is the most time consuming part of the tree-solver. Typically it takes more than 90% of the computational time spent by the whole tree-solver. We stress that the tree-walk does not include any communication; the tree is traversed in parallel independently on each processor for all the grid cells in the spatial domain of that processor. The tree-solver exhibits very good scaling, with speed-up increasing almost linearly up to at least 1500 CPU cores (see §3.5).

Figure 1: Determining the block-tree levels that need to be exported from the leaf-blocks in the spatial domain of processor CPU0 to processor CPU1. In this case the spatial domains of the two processors are adjacent, and are separated by the thick dotted line. For each leaf-block on CPU0 (for example, the one enclosed by a thick dashed line) its block-tree is traversed and the MAC is evaluated in relation to all the leaf-blocks on processor CPU1; for this purpose the code uses the distance from the centre of mass of a node of the block-tree on CPU0, to the closest point of a leaf-block on CPU1, as illustrated by the coloured arrows. The level of detail communicated to CPU1 is then set by the finest level reached during this procedure. In the case illustrated, the leaf-block on CPU0 that is furthest from the leaf-blocks on CPU1 (the one enclosed by a thick dashed line) exports only the first two levels of its block-tree, i.e. from level to . In contrast, the leaf-blocks on CPU0 that are closest to the leaf-blocks on CPU1 export their full block-trees, i.e. from level to level .
Figure 2: Organization of a block-tree within a block in memory. It is a 1D array sorted by levels, starting from .

2.2 Gravity module

This module calculates the gravitational potential and/or the gravitational acceleration. We use the same approach as Springel (2005) and store only monopole moments in the tree, because this substantially reduces memory requirements and communication costs. Since masses and centres of mass are already stored on the tree-nodes by the tree-solver, the gravity module does not contribute any extra quantities to the tree.

In §2.2.1 we describe three data-dependent MACs which can be used instead of the geometric MACs of the tree-solver: Maximum Partial Error (MPE), Approximate Partial Error (APE) and the (experimental) implementation of the SumSquare MAC. Furthermore, the code features three different types of gravity boundary conditions. These are isolated (see §2.2.2), fully periodic (§2.2.3), and mixed boundary conditions (§2.2.4). Finally in §2.2.6, we describe a technique called the Adaptive Block Update to save computational time by re-using the solution from previous time-step when possible.

Data-dependent MACs

A general weakness of the purely geometric MACs is that they do not take into account the amount and internal distribution of mass in a node. This can make the code inefficient if the density is highly non-uniform. For example, if the code calculates the gravitational potential of the multi-phase interstellar medium, the contribution from nodes in the hot rarefied gas is very small, but it is calculated with the same opening angle as the much more important contribution from nodes in dense molecular cores.

MPE MAC (Maximum Partial Error): To compensate for the above problem, SW94 propose a MAC based on evaluating the maximum possible error in the contribution to the gravitational acceleration at the target point, , that could derive from calculating it using the multipole expansion of the node up to order (instead of adding directly the contributions from all the constituent grid cells)


Here, is the mass centre of the node; is the distance from to the target point; is the distance from to the furthest point in the node; is the -order multipole moment, obtained by summing contributions from all the grid cells in the node; and are the masses and positions of these grid cells. The node is then accepted only if is smaller than some specified maximum allowable acceleration error. This threshold can either be set by the user as a constant value, , in the physical units used by the simulation


or it can be set as a relative value, , with respect to the acceleration from the previous time-step


APE MAC (Approximate Partial Error): An alternative way to estimate the partial error of a node contribution was suggested by Springel et al. (2001). It takes into account the node total mass, but it ignores the internal node mass distribution. It is therefore faster, but less accurate. Using multipole moments up to order , the error of the gravitational acceleration is of order the contribution from the multipole moment


where is the mass in the node and in our case since we only store monopole moments. Similar to the MPE MAC, the APE error limit can be either set absolutely as (Equation 4), or relatively through (Equation 5).

SumSquare MAC: SW94 argue that it is unsafe to constrain the error using the contribution of a single node only, since it is not known a priori how these contributions combine. They suggest an alternative procedure, which limits the error in the total acceleration at the target point; one variant of this procedure is the SumSquare MAC which sums up squares of given by Equation (2) over all nodes considered for the calculation of the potential/acceleration at a given target point. In this way, the SumSquare MAC controls the total error in acceleration resulting from the contribution of all tree-nodes. This MAC requires a special tree-walk which does not proceed in the depth-first manner. Instead it uses a priority queue, which on-the-fly reorders a list of nodes waiting for evaluation according to the estimated error resulting from their contribution. This feature is still experimental in our implementation, nevertheless we evaluate its accuracy and performance and compare it to other MACs in §3.4.

Isolated boundary conditions

In the case of isolated boundary conditions (BCs), the gravitational potential in a target point given by position vector is


where index runs over all nodes accepted by the MAC during the tree-walk, and are the node mass and position. The gravitational acceleration is then obtained either by differentiating the potential numerically, or it is calculated, as


The first approach needs less memory and is slightly faster. The second approach results in less noise, because numerical differentiation is not needed.

Periodic boundary conditions

In the case of periodic boundary conditions in all three directions, the gravitational potential is determined by the Ewald method (Ewald, 1921; Klessen, 1997), which is designed to mitigate the very slow convergence in case one evaluates contributions to the potential, essentially where , over an infinite number of periodic copies, by brute force. This is achieved by splitting it into two parts


and summing the term in Fourier space; is an arbitrary constant controlling the number of nearby and distant terms which have to be taken into consideration. In this section, we present formulae only for the potential. The expressions for acceleration are straightforward to derive, and we list them in appendix A.

The computational domain is assumed to be a rectangular cuboid, with sides , and where and are arbitrary real numbers. The gravitational potential at the target point, , is then


Here, the first inner sum corresponds to short-range contributions, , from the nearest domains in physical space, and the second sum constitutes long-range contributions, . The outer sum runs over all accepted nodes in the computational domain is the mass of a node, and is its centre of mass4. Indices , , are integer numbers; , , are unit vectors in the corresponding directions; and is a wavevector with components , , , where , , are integer numbers. By virtue of the Ewald method, both inner sums converge very fast. We follow Hernquist et al. (1991) in setting


and .

Figure 3: An illustration of the limiting process which transforms a configuration with periodic BCs to a configuration with mixed BCs. The computational domain and its periodic copies are shown on slices of constant , the orientation of unit vectors and is indicated at the bottom left. From left to right: (a) Configuration with periodic BCs (i.e. ); (b) The material inside the periodic copies is displaced by distance in direction , and the density in the computational domain at is set to zero (i.e. ); (c) The material in the periodic copies is displaced further (). The box to the left of the computational domain shows the shortest wavelength in the direction fulfilling condition (13). The number of horizontal oscillations is proportional to the value of index for given .

Mixed boundary conditions

We generalise the Ewald method, which was developed for computational domains with periodic BCs in all spatial directions, to computational domains with mixed BCs. In three dimensional space, mixed BCs can be of two types: periodic BCs in two directions (without loss of generality we choose - and -directions), and isolated BCs in the third (-)direction; and periodic BCs in one direction (we choose ), and isolated BCs in the other two directions. We abbreviate the former case of mixed BCs as 2P1I, and the latter case as 1P2I. Configuration 2P1I has planar symmetry with axis , while configuration 1P2I has an axial symmetry along axis . These configurations might be convenient for studying systems with the symmetry (i.e. layers or filaments). We note that directions that can be defined as periodic are given by computational domain boundaries and thus they can only be parallel with one or more of the Cartesian coordinate axes.

We find the expression for for mixed BCs of 2P1I type by taking a limit of Equation (11). Consider a computational domain with side-lengths , , and with periodic boundary conditions in all three directions, for which the gravitational potential is given by Equation (11). Next we shift periodic copies of this domain in the -direction so that the periodicity in the -direction is times larger, i.e. , where is an integer number and is the extent in the -direction of the original computational domain (Figure 3). Since the copies are shifted and not stretched, the mass distribution between and is unaltered, and the density is zero between and , leaving all mass concentrated in plane-parallel layers of thickness and with normals pointing in direction . As increases, the layers move away from one another, but Equation (11) still holds. In the limit , the periodic copies of the computational domain are touching one another in - and -directions, however, neighbouring layers in the -direction are at infinite distance and hence they do not contribute to the gravitational field in the original computational domain.

As increases, the short–range contributions are zero for all , because the argument of the complementary error function in Equation (11) tends to infinity. The long–range term in the limit becomes


The condition (13), which is now requires us to conserve resolution in the -direction in Fourier space, i.e. to increase the range of with linearly (see Figure 3). Note that is independent of , because we restrict all mass in the computational domain to interval , (i.e. for any target point at and node at ). Bearing this in mind, the term after the limit sign in Equation (14) corresponds to a Riemann sum over interval with equally spaced partitions of size . Using the identity where , the limit becomes




To keep the notation compact, we introduce and . In order to evaluate the integral analytically, we extend the interval of integration to infinity (this extension means that we evaluate the sum even slightly more accurately than by condition 13) If , we have


where . When , integral (16) is infinite, but this property can be circumvented. With the help of we get two integrals corresponding to these two terms. The former one is infinite, but independent of the spatial coordinates and we set it to zero. The latter one can easily be integrated


Now we can write the potential as 5


Note that the ratio is not contained in as we may expect, because it is of no physical significance when the BCs are isolated in this direction.

The modification of the Ewald method for a computational domain with mixed BCs of type 1P2I can be derived in a similar way to the previous case. However, the integration is more demanding here, because the result of the limiting process is a double integral (we integrate Equation (16) along instead of equations (17) and (18)). Applying a substitution which corresponds to a rotation, this integral can be transformed into a 1D integral, but we have not been able to express it in a closed form. In this case (1P2I), we arrive at


where function is given by


and . Function is the Bessel function of the first kind and zeroth order.

Formulae for accelerations corresponding to potentials Equation (11), Equation (20) and Equation (21) are listed in appendix A.

Look-up table for the Ewald array

Since the explicit evaluation of and at each time-step would be prohibitively time consuming, these functions are pre-calculated before the first hydrodynamical time step, and their values are stored in a look-up table. We experiment with two approaches to approximate the above functions from the look-up table at the time when the gravitational potential is evaluated.

In the first approach, the function is precalculated on a set of nested grids, and particular values are then found by trilinear interpolation on these grids. Coverage of the grids increases towards the singularity at the origin (). The gravitational potential at target point is then calculated as


In the second approach, we avoid the singularity of by subtracting the term from . This enables us to use only one interpolating grid with uniform coverage for the whole computational domain. Moreover, for mixed BCs, can be approximated at some parts of the computational domain by analytic functions. The function converges to with increasing for configuration 2P1I, and it converges to with increasing for configuration 1P2I. The convergence is exponential and the relative error in acceleration is always smaller than if and for configuration 2P1I and 1P2I, respectively. Accordingly, we use the analytic expression in these regions and pre-calculate only at the region where or , so the grid covers only a fraction of the computational domain if the computational domain is elongated. In combination with using only one interpolating grid this results in smaller demands on memory while it retains the same accuracy as in the first approach.

In the second approach, we pre-calculate not only but also its gradient. The actual value of at a given location is then estimated by a Taylor expansion to the first order. This is faster than the trilinear interpolation used in the first approach, and leads to a speed up in the Gravity module by a factor of to depending on the shape of the computational domain, the adopted BCs, and whether the potential or acceleration is used. Thus the second approach appears to be superior to the first one. In each approach, if gravitational accelerations rather than the potential are required, we adopt an analogous procedure for each of its Cartesian components.

Note that in a very elongated computational domain, the evaluation of can be accelerated by adjusting the parameter . Since is pre-calculated, the choice of is of little importance in our implementation and we do not discuss it further in this paper.

Adaptive block update

Often, it is not necessary to calculate the gravitational potential/acceleration at each grid cell in each time-step. Since the FLASH code uses a global time-step controlled by the Courant-Friedrichs-Lewy (CFL) condition, there may be large regions of the computational domain where the mass distribution almost does not change during one time-step. In such regions, the gravitational potential/acceleration from the previous time step may be accurate enough to be used also in the current time-step. Therefore, to save the computational time, we implement a technique called the Adaptive Block Update (ABU). If activated, the tree-walk is modified as follows. For each block, the tree-walk is at first executed only for the eight corner grid cells of the current block. Then, the gravitational potential or acceleration (or any other quantity calculated by the tree-solver, e.g. the optical depth) in those eight grid cells is compared to the values from the previous time-step. If all the differences are smaller than the required accuracy (given e.g. by Equation 4 or 5), the previous time-step values are adopted for all grid cells of the block.

For some applications, the eight test cells in the block corners may not be sufficient. For instance, if the gas changes its configuration in a spherically symmetric way within a block, the gravitational acceleration at the block corners does not change, even though the acceleration may change substantially in the block interior. Such situation is more probable if larger blocks than default cells are used. Therefore, it is easily possible to add more test cells by editing array gr_bhTestCells in file gr_bhData.F90, where test cells are listed using cell indices within a block, i.e. in a form (1,1,1), (1,1,8)…(8,8,8).

ABU can save a substantial amount of the computational time, however, on large numbers of processors it works well only if a proper load balancing among processors is ensured, i.e. each processor should be assigned with a task of approximately the same computational cost. FLASH is parallelized using a domain decomposition scheme and individual blocks are distributed among processors using the space filling Morton curve (see Fryxell et al., 2000, for details). Each processor receives a number of blocks estimated so that their total expected computational time measured by a workload weight is approximately the same as the one for the other processors. By default, FLASH assumes that processing each leaf-block takes approximately the same amount of time to compute, and it assigns workload weight to each leaf-block (because it includes active grid cells) and workload weights to all other blocks (they are used only for interpolations between different AMR levels).

The assumption of the same workload per leaf-block cannot be used with ABU, because if the full tree-walk is executed for a given block less often, the average computational time spent on it is substantially lower in comparison with more frequently updated blocks. It is generally hard to predict whether a given block will be fully updated in the next time-step or not without additional information about the calculated problem. Therefore, we implement a simple block workload estimate that leads in most cases to better performance than using the uniform workload, even though it may not be optimal. It is based on the assumption that the probability that the block will be updated is proportional to the amount of work done on the block during several previous time-steps. This assumption is motivated by considering that a typical simulation includes on one hand regions where the density and the acceleration change rapidly (e.g. close to fast moving dense massive objects), and on the other hand, regions where the acceleration changes slowly (e.g. large volumes filled with hot rarefied gas). Consequently, the past workload of a given block provides an approximate estimate its current workload. However, this information is valid only until the density field evolves enough to change the above property of the region. The time at which this happens can be approximately estimated as the gas crossing time of a singe block. Due to the CFL condition, the corresponding number of time-steps is approximately a number of grid cells in a block along one direction. Specifically, the block workload estimate works as follows. For each leaf-block, a total number of node contributions during the tree-walk to all its grid cells, , is determined. Then, the workload weight, , of that block is calculated as


where is the workload weight from the previous time-step, is a characteristic number of time-steps on which the workload changes, is a dimensionless number limiting the maximum workload weight, and is the maximum taken over all leaf-blocks in the simulation. In this way, the block workload weight depends on its tree-solver computational cost during the last several () time-steps and is between (zero cost) and (maximum cost). By default, we set two global parameters and . The workload weight of non-leaf blocks remains equal to .

2.3 OpticalDepth module

The OpticalDepth module is used to evaluate the simplified solution to the radiative transfer equation


where is the specific intensity at frequency , is the specific intensity at the source location, and is the optical depth along a given path through the computational domain at frequency . In this form, the problem of evaluating what radiation intensity reaches a given point in the computational domain, i.e. a given target point, is reduced to computing the optical depth in between a radiation source and the target point. The optical depth is proportional to the absorption cross-section and the column density along the path.

Hence, the OpticalDepth module calculates the total and/or specific column densities (e.g. of molecular hydrogen) for each cell in the computational domain, and can therefore be used to compute the local attenuation of an arbitrary external radiation field. The implementation presented here follows the idea of the Treecol method (Clark et al., 2012), which has been implemented in the Gadget code (Springel et al., 2001). It has been established as a fast but accurate enough approximative radiative transfer scheme to treat the (self-)shielding of molecules –on-the-fly – in simulations of molecular cloud formation (e.g. Clark & Glover, 2014). Recently, the method has also been applied in larger-scale simulations of Milky-Way like galaxies (Smith et al., 2014) with the Arepo code (Springel, 2010). The implementation presented here has been successfully used in several recent works on the evolution of the multi-phase ISM in galactic discs (Walch et al., 2015; Girichidis et al., 2016; Gatto et al., 2017; Peters et al., 2017).

In principle, the OpticalDepth module adds another dimension to the accumulation of the node masses during the tree-walk. For each grid cell, the module constructs a Healpix sphere (Górski et al., 2005) with a given number of pixels, , each representing a sphere surface element with index corresponding to polar and azimuth angles and , respectively. This temporary map is filled while walking the tree, as only the tree-nodes in the line of sight of a given pixel contribute to it, and are added accordingly. At the end of the tree-walk, one has acquired a column density map of a given quantity, e.g. total mass.

Since the tree-walk in FLASH is executed on a block-by-block basis, the additional memory requirement for the local pixel maps is , where is the number of quantities that are mapped and stored. For this paper, we map variables: (1) the total mass giving the total hydrogen column density, ; (2) the H column of molecular hydrogen, which is used to compute its self-shielding and which contributes to the shielding of CO; and (3) the CO column of carbon-monoxide, which is necessary to compute the self-shielding of CO. We store three separate maps because we actually follow the relative mass fractions of multiple species in the simulation using the FLASH Multispecies module. After the tree-walk for a given block has finished, the local maps are erased and the arrays can be re-used for the next block. This approach is only possible because the tree-walk is computed locally on each processor (see §2.1).

When using the OpticalDepth module, there are two major modifications with respect to the usual tree-walk (as described above). First, the intersection of a given tree-node with the line of sight of each pixel has to be evaluated during the tree-walk. Second, at the end of the tree-walk for a given block, the acquired column density maps have to be evaluated for each cell.

Node-Ray intersection: The mapping of tree-nodes onto the individual pixels represents the core of all additional numerical operations that have to be carried out when running OpticalDepth in addition to the gravity calculation. It has to be computationally efficient in order to minimise additional costs. At this point, we do not follow the implementation of Clark et al. (2012), who make a number of assumptions about the shape of the nodes and their projection onto the pixels, which are necessary to reduce the computational cost. Instead, we pre-compute the number of intersecting Healpix rays and their respective, relative weight for a large set of nodes at different angular positions (, ) and different angular sizes . These values are stored in a look-up table, which is accessed during the tree-walk. In this way, the mapping of the nodes is highly efficient. Since , , and are known, we can easily compute the contribution of a node to all intersecting pixels by simply multiplying the mass (or any other quantity that should be mapped) of the node with the corresponding weight for each pixel and adding this contribution to the pixel map. For better accuracy, we over-sample the Healpix tessellation and construct the table for four times more rays than actually used in the simulation.

Radiative heating and molecule formation: The information that is obtained by the OpticalDepth module is necessary to compute the local heating rates and the formation and dissociation rates of H and CO. At the end of the tree-walk for a given block, the mean physical quantities needed by the Chemistry module calculating the interaction of the radiation with the gas are determined. For instance, the mean visual extinction in a given grid cell is


where the constant comes from the standard relation between the hydrogen column density, , and the visual extinction in a given direction (Draine & Bertoldi, 1996). The weighted mean is calculated in this fashion, because the photodissociation rates of molecules such as CO and the photoelectric heating rate of the gas all depend on exponential functions of the visual extinction (see Clark et al., 2012, for details). Additionally, the shielding coefficients, and (Glover & Mac Low, 2007; Glover et al., 2010), as well as the dust attenuation, (Glover & Clark, 2012; Clark et al., 2012), are computed by averaging over the Healpix maps in a similar way. These quantities are stored as globally accessible variables and can be used by other modules. In particular, we access them in the Chemistry module, which locally (in every cell) evaluates a small chemical network (Glover et al., 2010) on the basis of its current density and internal energy and re-computes the relative mass fractions of the different chemical species. The evaluation of the chemical network is operator split and employs the Dvode solver (Brown et al., 1989) to solve a system of coupled ODEs that describes the chemically reactive flow for the given species, i.e. their creation and destruction within a given time step. Here, we explicitly follow the evolution of five species, i.e. the different forms of hydrogen (ionised, H, atomic, H, and molecular, H) as well as ionised carbon (C) and carbon-monoxide (CO). Details about the chemical network, e.g. the considered reactions and the employed rate coefficients in the current implementation can be found in Glover et al. (2010) and Walch et al. (2015).

Parameters: The main parameters controlling both the accuracy and the speed of the calculation are the number of pixels per map , and the opening angle, , with which the tree is walked (see Equation (1)). Both should be varied at the same time. A high number of used with a relatively large opening angle will not improve the directional information since the nodes that are mapped into each solid angle will not be opened and thus, a spatial resolution that is sufficient for a fine-grained map cannot not be achieved. Therefore we vary both and at the same time.

The number of Healpix pixels is directly related to the solid angle of each element on the unit sphere


Tests in §3.3.1 show, in agreement with Clark et al. (2012), that the code efficiency is optimal if is approximately the same as the angular size Healpix elements, i.e.


Therefore, for , 48, 192 pixels we recommend to use , , .

3 Accuracy and performance

Since more computational time is needed to reach higher accuracy when solving numerical problems, accuracy and performance are connected and therefore, these two properties should always be evaluated at the same time. However, they are often highly dependent on the specific type of the problem and finding a test that allows one to objectively measure both accuracy and performance is hard. Another complication is that the tree-solver saves time by using the information from the previous time-step (if ABU is switched on), and thus any realistic estimate of the performance must be measured by running a simulation in which the mass moves in a similar way as in real applications and by integrating the computational time over a number of time-steps. Unfortunately, such simulations are unavoidably too complex to have an analytic solution against which the accuracy could be easily evaluated.

Therefore we perform two types of tests: static tests that measure accuracy using simple problems and dynamic tests that evaluate accuracy and performance together. The static tests need substantially less CPU time and thus allow for a higher number of parameter sets to be tested. Furthermore, analytic or semi-analytic solutions are known and the results can be compared to them. On the other hand, the dynamic tests represent more complex simulations which are more similar to problems that one would actually want to solve with the presented code. They also show how well the tree-solver is coupled with the hydrodynamic evolution (where we use the standard PPM Riemann solver of the Flash code) and how the error accumulates during the evolution. In this section, we describe four static and two dynamic tests of the Gravity module and one test of the OpticalDepth module.

When possible, i.e. for fully periodic of fully isolated boundary conditions, we compare the results obtained with the new tree-solver to the results obtained with the default multi-grid Poisson solver of FLASH (Ricker, 2008). The multi-grid solver is an iterative solver and the accuracy is controlled by checking the convergence of the L2 norm of the Poisson equation residual . The iteration process is stopped when where is the residual norm in the -th iteration and is the limit set by user. If isolated boundary conditions are used, the gravitational potential at the boundary is calculated by a multipole Poisson solver expanding the density and potential field into a series up to a multipole of order . By default in Flash version 4.4. However, using this value we found unexpectedly high errors close the boundaries (see test §3.1.1 and Figures 4 and 5), and therefore we use (the highest value allowed for technical reasons) in most tests because it yields the smallest error.

In general, the calculated gravitational acceleration deviates from the exact analytical solution due to two effects. The first one is the inherent inaccuracy of the gravity solver (either the tree gravity solver or the multi-grid solver), the second one is caused by an imperfect discretisation of the density field on the grid. Since we are mainly interested in evaluating the first effect, we measure the error by comparing the calculated accelerations to the reference solution obtained by direct ”” summation of all interactions of each grid cell with all the other grid cells in the computational domain. We additionally give the difference between the analytical and the ”-integrated” acceleration when possible.

We define the relative error of the gravitational acceleration at the point as


where is the acceleration of the reference solution and is its maximum taken over the whole computational domain.

In most of the gravity module tests, we control the error by setting the absolute limit on the acceleration, which is calculated from the initial maximum acceleration in the computational domain, , as ; typically, or . The difference6 between using the absolute or the relative error control is discussed in §3.4.

Most of the tests were carried out on cluster Salomon of the Czech National Supercomputing Centre IT4I 7. A few static tests that do not need larger computational power have been run on a workstation equipped with a -core Intel Core i7-2600 processor.

3.1 Static tests of gravity module

In order to test all combinations of the boundary conditions implemented in the Gravity module, we present four static tests. A marginally stable Bonnor-Ebert sphere is used to test the code with isolated boundary conditions (see §3.1.1) and a density field perturbed by a sine wave not aligned with any coordinate axis is used to test setups with fully periodic boundary conditions (§3.1.2). For mixed boundary conditions, periodic in two directions and isolated in a third one, or periodic in a single direction and isolated in the remaining two, we use an isothermal layer in hydrostatic equilibrium (§3.1.3) and an isothermal cylinder in hydrostatic equilibrium, respectively (§3.1.4). Finally, in §3.1.5, we test how the code accuracy depends on the alignment or non-alignment of the gas structures with the grid axes using a set of parallel cylinders lying in the xy-plane inclined at various angles with respect to the x-axis.

Bonnor-Ebert sphere

Figure 4: Error in the gravitational acceleration for the Bonnor-Ebert sphere as a function of radius. At a given radius, , the error is calculated as a maximum over all angular directions and . The vertical black line shows the BE sphere edge. The solid black line shows the difference between the acceleration obtained analytically and the reference solution calculated using the summation. Left panel: shows tests where the acceleration was calculated directly using Equation (8), the green, blue and red lines show errors of runs (a), (b) and (c), respectively, with parameters given in Table 1. Right panel: displays tests where the tree-solver calculates the gravitational potential using Equation (7) and the acceleration is obtained by numerical differentiation. The green, blue and red line denote models (d), (e) and (f). The magenta lines show tests calculated with the multi-grid solver using (dashed) and (dotted), respectively.
Figure 5: Error in the gravitational acceleration, , displayed in the plane for the Bonnor-Ebert sphere test. The four panels show four selected runs with parameters given in Table 1: top left corresponds to model (b) using the tree-solver calculating the grav. acceleration directly; top right shows model (e) where the tree-solver calculated the potential; bottom left is model (g) calculated using the multi-grid solver with ; and bottom right is model (h) calculated using the multi-grid solver with . The grid geometry (borders of blocks) is shown in the top right panel.
mod. solver quan. MAC
(a) tree accel. APE - - 0.0009 83
(b) tree accel. APE - - 0.0057 35
(c) tree accel. BH - 0.5 - 0.0008 110
(d) tree pot. APE - - 0.0085 80
(e) tree pot. APE - - 0.031 38
(f) tree pot. BH - 0.5 - 0.0095 106
(g) mg pot. - - - 0 0.058 21
(h) mg pot. - - - 15 0.077 20

We give the model name in column 1. The following columns are:

  • solver: indicates whether the tree-solver or the multi-grid solver (mg) is used

  • quan.: quantity calculated by the gravity solver (acceleration or potential which is then differentiated)

  • MAC: Multipole Acceptance Criterion (Barnes-Hut or Approximate Partial Error)

  • : requested accuracy of the solver as given by Equation (4) ( where is the maximum gravitational acceleration in the computational domain)

  • : maximum opening angle when the Barnes-Hut MAC is used

  • : maximum relative error in the computational domain given by Equation (29)

  • : time (in seconds) to calculate a single time-step on 8 cores

Table 1: Results of the marginally stable Bonnor-Ebert sphere test.

We calculate the radial gravitational acceleration of a marginally stable Bonnor-Ebert sphere (Ebert, 1955; Bonnor, 1956, BES) with mass  M, temperature  K and dimensionless radius . The resulting BES radius is  pc and the central density is  g cm. The sphere is embedded in a warm rarefied medium with temperature  K and density  g cm, which ensures that the gas pressure across the BES edge is continuous. We use an AMR grid controlled by the Jeans criterion – the Jeans length has to be resolved by at least by 64 cells and at most by 128 cells. It results in an effective resolution of in the centre of the BES.

Figure 4 shows the relative error in the gravitational acceleration, , as a function of radial coordinate, , and Table 1 lists all models, their maximum relative error, , and the time to calculate one time step, . We compare the solutions calculated with the tree gravity solver using the geometric (BH) MAC with (red curves) to the ones calculated using the APE MAC with (green lines) and (blue lines), respectively. The APE MAC and as well as the geometric MAC with always give a maximum relative error which is smaller than . In case of the APE MAC and , the maximum relative error reaches . Note that the error due to the discretisation of the density field is also of the order of 1% (black line; the jumps are due to changes in the refinement level in the AMR grid).

With the tree gravity solver, the user may choose to directly compute the gravitational accelerations (left panel of Figure 4) or to calculate them by numerical differentiation of the gravitational potential (right panel of Figure 4). Usually, the latter is the standard practice in grid-based 3D simulations, also because only one field variable, the potential, has to be stored instead of three, the accelerations in three spatial directions. However, for the tree-solver we generally find that the error in the gravitational accelerations is significantly smaller (about a factor of in the test presented here) if they are computed directly. This is independent of the used MAC.

For comparison, we also show the results obtained with the multi-grid solver (magenta lines) using and (solid lines) or (dotted lines), respectively. Although the mass distribution is spherically symmetric, the order of the multipole expansion of the boundary condition affects the accuracy of the multi-grid solver relatively far away from boundaries, even inside the BES. The error of the multi-grid solver is very low in the central region, it reaches in regions where the refinement level changes (due to numerical differentiation of the potential), and increases to relatively high values at the border of the computational domain ( for and for ), due to inaccuracy of the boundary conditions calculated by the multipole solver. We note that a direct calculation of the gravitational acceleration is not possible with the multi-grid solver.

The distribution of the relative error in the plane through the centre of the BES is depicted in Figure 5. The results show that the acceleration obtained with the tree gravity solver using the APE MAC with has a substantially smaller error if it is calculated directly (top left panel; see Table 1 model (b)) instead of by numerical differentiation of the potential (top right panel; model (e)). The bottom panels show the results for the multi-grid solver with (model (g)) and (model (h)), respectively. The default setting of gives errors of 5% near the domain boundaries due to the low accuracy of the multi-pole solver. This error propagates into a large fraction of the computational domain.

Sine-wave perturbation (Jeans test)

Figure 6: Maximum relative error of the gravitational acceleration for the Jeans test. Solid lines show acceleration calculated directly, while dashed lines show acceleration calculated by numerically differentiating the potential. The acceptance criteria are the same as in Figure 4.

In a computational domain with fully periodic boundary conditions we calculate the gravitational acceleration of a smooth density field with a harmonic perturbation,


where is the mean density and is the amplitude of the perturbation. The computational domain is a cube of size  pc with grid cells in each direction. The wave-vector was chosen such that it is not aligned with any of the coordinate axes. The gravitational acceleration can be obtained analytically with the help of the Jeans swindle (Jeans, 1902; Kiessling, 1999)


Figure 6 shows the maximum relative error as a function of the position on a line parallel to the perturbation wave-vector . The maximum error is computed from all points projected to a given position on the line. It can be seen that the error of the multi-grid solver (magenta curve) is very small, almost the same as the difference between the analytical solution and the reference solution (black line). This is because without the need to calculate the boundary conditions separately, and on a uniform grid, the FFT accelerated multi-grid method is extremely efficient. Again, the results for the tree-solver simulations show that direct calculation of the acceleration (solid curves) leads to a much lower error than the calculation of the potential and subsequent differentiation (dashed lines). In particular, the calculation of the potential with the geometric MAC that does not take into account the different mass density in the tree-nodes leads to a relative error greater than %. However, a direct calculation of the acceleration gives very accurate results for both, the geometric MAC and the APE MAC with . In Table 2 we list all models with their respective and .

model solver quan. MAC
(a) tree accel. APE - 0.0009 480
(b) tree accel. APE - 0.0062 210
(c) tree accel. BH - 0.5 0.0029 250
(d) tree pot. APE - 0.0180 330
(e) tree pot. APE - 0.0270 130
(f) tree pot. BH - 0.5 0.15 150
(g) mg pot. - - - 0.0016 9
Table 2: Results of the second static test: sine-wave perturbation. The meaning of the columns is the same as in Table 1.

Isothermal layer in hydrostatic equilibrium

Figure 7: Maximum relative error of the gravitational acceleration for the isothermal layer. Meaning of line types is the same as in Fig. 4.

In order to test the accuracy of the tree gravity module with mixed boundary conditions (periodic in two directions and isolated in the third one), we calculate the gravitational acceleration of an isothermal layer in hydrostatic equilibrium. The vertical density distribution of the layer is (Spitzer, 1942)


where  g cm is the mid-plane density and  km s is the isothermal sound speed. The corresponding vertical component of the gravitational acceleration is


The computational domain is a cube of side length  pc and a uniform resolution of grid cells in each direction.

Figure 7 shows the maximum relative error in the acceleration as a function of the -coordinate, where the maximum is taken over all cells with the same -coordinate. It can be seen that the error is almost independent of and there is only a small difference between the cases where the gravitational acceleration is calculated directly (solid lines) or where it is obtained by differentiation of the potential (dashed lines). The reason is that the density field in this test has relatively shallow gradients (e.g. compared to the Jeans test discussed in the previous section) and numerical differentiation leads to particularly severe errors for steep gradients. We find the largest error for runs with APE MAC and . All other runs have small errors, which are comparable to the difference between the analytical and the reference solution, resulting from the discretisation of the density field. The results are summarised in Table 3.

model solver quan. MAC
(a) tree accel. APE - 0.00017 170
(b) tree accel. APE - 0.0035 106
(c) tree accel. BH - 0.5 180
(d) tree pot. APE - 0.00029 99
(e) tree pot. APE - 0.0028 45
(f) tree pot. BH - 0.5 0.00043 107
Table 3: Results of the second static test: isothermal layer in hydrostatic equilibrium. The meaning of columns is the same as in Table 1.

Isothermal cylinder in hydrostatic equilibrium

Figure 8: Maximum relative error of the gravitational acceleration for the isothermal cylinder. Meaning of line types is the same as in Figure 4. The black vertical line denotes the edge of the cylinder.

In the next static test, we evaluate the accuracy of the tree gravity module for mixed boundary conditions, which are isolated in two directions and periodic in the third one. We calculate the gravitational acceleration of an isothermal cylinder in hydrostatic equilibrium. The long axis of the cylinder is parallel to -coordinate and the radius is given as . The density distribution is (Ostriker, 1964)


where  g cm is the central density and  km s is the isothermal sound speed. The density distribution is cut off at radius  pc and embedded in an ambient gas with  km s and the same pressure as the pressure at the cylinder boundary. The corresponding gravitational acceleration is


The computational domain has dimensions and contains grid cells.

Figure 8 shows the maximum relative error of the gravitational acceleration in radial direction, where the maximum error is calculated for all grid cells at the same distance to the cylinder axis. In all runs, the error is a very weak function of . If numerical differentiation of the potential is used, it is the dominant source of the error, which is as large as 1% in these cases (see dashed lines). The results are summarised in Table 4.

model solver quan. MAC
(a) tree accel. APE -
(b) tree accel. APE -
(c) tree accel. BH - 0.5
(d) tree pot. APE -
(e) tree pot. APE -
(f) tree pot. BH - 0.5
Table 4: Results of the fourth static test: isothermal cylinder in hydrostatic equilibrium. The meaning of columns is the same as in Table 1.

Inclined cylinders

Figure 9: Relative error of the gravitational acceleration in the xy-plane, , for the set of inclined cylinders. Left panels show the logarithm of the error measured with respect to the direct integration, right panels show the error with respect to analytically obtained accelerations. Each of the top four rows show the calculation with different inclination angle of the cylinders: , , and degrees from top to bottom. The panel at the very bottom shows the logarithm of the maximum error in the acceleration as a function of the cylinder inclination angle, .

In order to test whether the alignment of gas structures with the coordinate axes has an impact on the code accuracy, i.e. whether the algorithm is sensitive to any grid effects, we calculate gravitational field of the set of parallel cylinders in the 2P1I geometry. The axes of all cylinders lie in the -plane and they are inclined at angle with respect to the -axis. The computational domain has an extent  pc in the isolated -direction and approximately  pc in the periodic and directions. The exact extents in the latter two directions are chosen so that the computational domain composes a periodic cell of the infinite plane of cylinders, i.e. the cylinders connect contiguously to each other at the and periodic boundaries. Each cylinder has the same radius and density profile as the cylinder described in section §3.1.4, the distance between the cylinder axes is  pc. We have calculated models with increasing from to with a step . For all models, the gravity tree solver was running with the BH MAC and maximum opening angle .

Figure 9 shows the relative error of the gravitational acceleration, , calculated in the -plane using Equation (29). The reference acceleration, , is either obtained numerically by the -integration (four panels on the left for ), or analytically by summing up potential of parallel cylinders (four panels on the right). The error with respect to the -integration is always smaller than . The error with respect to the analytical acceleration is of order and is always slightly higher than the former error, as it includes contribution from the imperfect discretisation of the density field reaching the highest values along the cylinder edges where the density field has a discontinuity. The bottom panel show the maximum as a function of demonstrating that the code accuracy is almost independent of the inclination of the gaseous structures with respect to coordinate axes.

3.2 Dynamic tests of gravity module

We run two dynamic tests of the gravity module. The first one (described in §3.2.1) is a collapse of a cold adiabatic sphere suggested by Evrard (1988) and it tests how well the energy is conserved during the gravitational collapse. The second one, describes the evolution of a turbulent sphere (§3.2.2). Both test the accuracy of the gravity module and its coupling to the hydrodynamic solver.

Evrard test

Figure 10: Time evolution of the total mass and thermal, kinetic, gravitational and total energy for the Evrard test. Top panel compares calculation with the tree gravity solver (green lines) and the multi-grid solver (magenta lines) at the same grid with uniform resolution . The two runs are almost indistinguishable. Bottom panel compares calculations with the tree-solver at different resolution. The red, green and blue lines show calculations done on a uniform grid with constant refinement levels , and , corresponding to grid sizes , and , respectively. The magenta, cyan and black lines show runs with the AMR grid where the resolution was set so that the Jeans length is always resolved at least by , and grid cells, respectively. It resulted in the maximum refinement levels reached , and , respectively.

The Evrard test (Evrard, 1988) describes the gravitational collapse and a subsequent re-bounce of an adiabatic, initially cold sphere. It is often used to verify energy conservation in SPH codes (e.g. Springel et al., 2001; Wetzstein et al., 2009), its application on grid-based codes is unfortunately less common. The initial conditions consist of a gaseous sphere of mass , radius and density profile


The initial, spatially constant temperature is set so that the internal energy per unit mass is


where is the gravitational constant. The standard values of the above parameters, used also in this work, are .

In Figure 10<