August 15, 2012

Simulation Software Shows Evolution Of Universe

Watch the Video: Recreating a Slice of the Universe

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

Scientists have found a way to accurately follow the birth and evolution of thousands of galaxies over billions of years.

For the first time, scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and their colleagues at the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) have made it possible to build a universe from scratch that brims with galaxies like we observe around us.

"We've created the full variety of galaxies we see in the local universe," Mark Vogelsberger of CfA said in a press release.

Scientists have had trouble simulating spiral galaxies like those of our neighbors, such as Andromeda, the Pinwheel, and the Whirlpool.

Spiral galaxies in simulations end up looking like lots of blobby galaxies clumped into balls, without the broad disks and outstretched arms that make them so iconic.

Software created by the researchers generate a full-fledged simulation of the universe, taking you through time from the Big Bang, and 14 billion years later into the future.

"We took all the advantages of previous codes and removed the disadvantages," Volker Springel, who created the software, said in a press release.

Debora Sijacki of Harvard said that the team's simulations improve previous ones as much as the Giant Magellan Telescope improved upon any telescope that exists now.

Previous simulations divided space into a bunch of cubes of fixed size and shape, but the new software uses a grid that flexes and moves in space to match the motions of the underlying gas, stars, dark matter, and dark energy.

The software simulations ran on Harvard's Odyssey high-performance supercomputer, and used a total of 1024 processor cores.

This machine allowed scientists to compress 14 billion years of space history into just a few months.

The team's future goals include simulating much larger volumes of the universe at unprecedented resolution, helping to create the largest and most realistic model of the universe ever made.

The researchers published their findings in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.