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Top: Snapshot of a simulation of an embedded star cluster at the moment all stars have arrived on the zero-age main sequence (by construction). This cluster consist of 300 M in stars distributed in a Plummer sphere with a Salpeter IMF, and 1000M in ambient gas (with the same spatial distribution as the stars). Bottom: Snapshot of the same embedded cluster as the top image, but now after the majority of the gas has been expelled (at an age of about 8 Myr, the first supernova in this cluster occurs at about 10 Myr. The result was generated using the AMSUE framework in a distributed simulation combining high-precision gravitational dynamics, stellar evolution and hydrodynamics. © NOVA.

The Astronomical Multipurpose Software Environment (AMUSE) is a component library for simulating astronomical phenomena. It is composed of some 50 high-level production quality numerical codes packed together in a homogeneous and unique framework. The individual codes are written in highly optimized and often parallelized or GPU enabled source code, whereas the interfaces that enable the communication between the codes are written in the high level scripting language Python.

As a result, AMUSE has the best of two worlds: Python enables rapid prototyping of production quality astronomically motivated experiments, and the underlying optimized solvers warrant a quick execution, even on large parallel supercomputers. Another major advantage of AMUSE is the unified unit conversion between dimensionless code units and astrophysically motivated units. This allows even novice users to be able to set up their experiments quickly and interpret the results. As a consequence, AMUSE is extremely suitable for education of astronomy at all levels. The hundreds of example and scientific production scripts enables any users (even the inexperienced programmers) to setup a simple experiment in a matter of minutes. More complicated experiments can include any combination of hydrodynamics, stellar evolution, gravitational dynamics and radiative transport.

AMUSE has been used for more than twenty papers and six PhD thesis. Over thirty people are using the framework, half of them outside the Netherlands. Topics vary from the study of planetary dynamics, the evolution of millisecond pulsars, to triple star dynamics, supernova remnants, star cluster formation, galaxy evolution and cosmology. Many studies adopt one or two physical domains, even though the framework allows for much more complicated studies. Those complicated studies have so far not been carried out because there is already so much to explore with relatively simple code couplings. In that sense, AMUSE is a revolution in computational astrophysics.

AMUSE is released as open-source software to be freely used by the astronomical community. The software can be downloaded from the AMUSE website which also provides detailed information on how to use it.

The principal investigator of AMUSE is Prof. dr. Simon Portegies Zwart (Leiden observatory).