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What does the Universe looks like?

A group of astrophysicists have used the Hazel Hen machine, Germany's fastest mainframe computer, to create the most detailed simulation ever of the entire universe

What does the Universe looks like?

Called Illustris: The Next Generation, or IllustrisTNG, the simulation models a cube-shaped universe that follows the formation of millions of galaxies in a representative region of a universe that is almost one billion light-years per side. 

According to “The Harvard Crimson”, the research team that developed this model, led by Volker Springel from the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies in Germany, includes researchers from Harvard, MIT, Columbia, and the Max Planck Centers for Astronomy and Astrophysics. 

In one of the papers published in the Dec. 2017 Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the researchers wrote that their universe simulation “significantly expands the scope with simulations of larger volumes, at higher resolution, and with new physics”.

"When we observe galaxies using a telescope, we can only measure certain quantities", said Shy Genel, an associate research scientist at the Flatiron Institute's Center for Computational Astrophysics. "With the simulation, we can track all the properties for all these galaxies. And not just how the galaxy looks now, but its entire formation history".

Alphr says that mapping how galaxies evolve could unlock secrets of what our own Milky Way galaxy might have been like when the Earth formed, and how our galaxy could change in the future.

Mapping how galaxies evolve could unlock secrets of what our own Milky Way galaxy might have been like when the Earth formed, and how our galaxy could change in the future

The astrophysicists involved say the new tool provides key insights into things like how black holes influence the distribution of dark matter, how heavy elements are produced and distributed throughout the cosmos, and where magnetic fields originate: “It is particularly fascinating that we can accurately predict the influence of supermassive black holes on the distribution of matter out to large scales”, said principal investigator Prof. Volker Springel of the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies. “This is crucial for reliably interpreting forthcoming cosmological measurements”.

As the team said in one of the papers, the entire IllustrisTNG project will consist of 18 simulations in total and the individual simulations will vary in physical size, resolution, and complexity. Some of the topics they are looking to study will provide more insight into dark matter distribution and how dark energy drives the accelerating expansion in our universe.

Some of the topics they are looking to study will provide more insight into dark matter distribution and how dark energy drives the accelerating expansion in our universe.

Astronomers and astrophysicists will continue to learn from IllustrisTNG about the interconnected cosmic processes that have shaped our universe and, as the team wrote on their website, future projects can benefit from improved physics and the advanced abilities that will come from the increasing computational power of the world's fastest supercomputer systems. 

 

Latin American Post | Luisa Fernanda Báez

Copy edited by Laura Rocha Rueda

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