Parallel HOP: A scalable halo finder for massive cosmological data sets

Stephen Skory, Matthew J. Turk, Michael L. Norman, Alison L. Coil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Modern N-body cosmological simulations contain billions (109) of dark matter particles. These simulations require hundreds to thousands of gigabytes of memory and employ hundreds to tens of thousands of processing cores on many compute nodes. In order to study the distribution of dark matter in a cosmological simulation, the dark matter halos must be identified using a halo finder, which establishes the halo membership of every particle in the simulation. The resources required for halo finding are similar to the requirements for the simulation itself. In particular, simulations have become too extensive to use commonly employed halo finders, such that the computational requirements to identify halos must now be spread across multiple nodes and cores. Here, we present a scalable-parallel halo finding method called Parallel HOP for large-scale cosmological simulation data. Based on the halo finder HOP, it utilizes message passing interface and domain decomposition to distribute the halo finding workload across multiple compute nodes, enabling analysis of much larger data sets than is possible with the strictly serial or previous parallel implementations of HOP. We provide a reference implementation of this method as a part of the toolkit "yt", an analysis toolkit for adaptive mesh refinement data that include complementary analysis modules. Additionally, we discuss a suite of benchmarks that demonstrate that this method scales well up to several hundred tasks and data sets in excess of 20003 particles. The Parallel HOP method and our implementation can be readily applied to any kind of N-body simulation data and is therefore widely applicable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-57
Number of pages15
JournalAstrophysical Journal, Supplement Series
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 2010


  • Galaxies: halos
  • Methods: data analysis
  • Methods: numerical

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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