Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Galaxies out of a Supercomputer

08.05.2014

A new computer simulation shows the formation of galaxies with unprecedented precision, allowing astrophysicists from Heidelberg, the U.S. and England to indirectly confirm the standard model of cosmology.

Galaxies are typically comprised of several hundred billion stars and display a variety of shapes and sizes. The formation of galaxies is one of the most involved and complex problems of astrophysics.


Several views of the Illustris simulation at different scales. Astrophysicist Volker Springel (HITS) wrote the AREPO code that made this simulation possible.

Image: Illustris


Images of the simulated population of galaxies, arranged along the classical Hubble sequence (“tuning fork” diagram) for morphological classification.

Image: Illustris

In cooperation with an international team of scientists at the MIT, Harvard University and other institutions, scientists at the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) have now succeeded in simulating the physics of galaxy formation in a vast region of space with very high accuracy.

In the journal Nature, they report that the calculation yielded for the first time a realistic mix of elliptical and spiral galaxies. Moreover, the simulation can explain the enrichment of heavy elements (so-called “metals”) in neutral hydrogen gas. In addition, the calculated galaxies are distributed in space as observed with telescopes.

The “Illustris” simulation project produced more than 200 terabyte of data and required the combined power of more than 8,000 processors for several months. The simulation was possible thanks to the AREPO code for cosmological structure formation, which was developed at HITS, and the supercomputers CURIE in France and SuperMUC in Germany. The virtual universe that the scientists created allows a variety of novel predictions as well as comprehensive tests of cosmological theories of galaxy formation.

The standard model of cosmology is based on the hypothesis that the Universe is dominated by unknown forms of matter and energy. We do not know the true physical nature of dark matter and dark energy yet, but their impact can be understood with the help of supercomputers.

Previous simulations of the cosmos generated a cosmic web of matter concentrations that showed a passing resemblance to the galaxy distribution. However, they were not able to create elliptical and spiral galaxies and follow the small-scale evolution of interstellar gas and stars, which are closely linked to each other. With the ambitious “Illustris” project, the cosmologists have now taken a major step towards addressing this issue.

In the world’s largest hydrodynamic simulation of galaxy formation, 13 billion years of cosmic evolution were followed in a cube of 350 million light-years across, beginning 12 million years after the Big Bang. During this time, the “primordial soup” consisting of hydrogen, helium gas and dark matter formed increasingly big clumps, pulled together by gravity.

Finally, galactic stellar systems developed, whose growth is regulated by the complex interplay between radiation processes, hydrodynamic shock waves, turbulent flows, star formation, supernova explosions and the energy supplied through growing supermassive black holes. The Illustris team was able to calculate these physical processes with the AREPO code in its new supercomputer simulation. AREPO is a “moving mesh code”, which does not partition the simulated universe with a fixed grid but rather uses a movable and deformable mesh, which allows a particularly accurate processing of the vastly different size and mass scales occurring in individual galaxies.

The main simulation of the project employed more than 18 billion particles and cells and bridges a dynamic range of more than one million per space dimension – if a photo needed to resolve similarly small details, it would have to offer one million megapixels. The memory consumption of the Illustris simulation was more than 25 terabyte, and the generated data volume of over 200 terabyte sets a new record in cosmology. This flood of data makes it possible to study the evolution of about 50,000 well-resolved galaxies in detail, and to make theoretical predictions for cosmological structure formation with high accuracy.

Several years of preparatory work for the simulation paid off: For the first time, the famous “tuning fork diagram” of galaxy morphology, which goes back to Edwin Hubble, can be reproduced. Mark Vogelsberger (MIT), first author of the initial study on Illustris, published in Nature, says: “It is remarkable that the universe’s initial conditions as observed after the Big Bang can actually produce galaxies with the right sizes and shapes.”

Indirectly, the findings can be regarded as a confirmation of the standard model of cosmology. “We can finally leave the old and coarse models of galaxy formation behind and not only precisely calculate dark matter, but also the ordinary visible matter,” says Prof. Volker Springel, group leader of the HITS research group “Theoretical Astrophysics” and author of the AREPO code. He adds: “The Illustris results mark a radical change in theoretical studies of galaxy formation.”

Press Contact:
Dr. Peter Saueressig
Public Relations
Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS)
Tel.: +49-6221-533-245
Fax: +49-6221-533-298
peter.saueressig@h-its.org
www.h-its.org

Scientific Contact:
Prof. Dr. Volker Springel
Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) / Heidelberg University
Tel: +49-6221-533-241
volker.springel@h-its.org
www.h-its.org

Original scientific publication:
M. Vogelsberger, S. Genel, V. Springel, P. Torrey, D. Sijacki, D. Xu, G. Snyder, S. Bird, D. Nelson, L. Hernquist. “Properties of galaxies reproduced by a hydrodynamic simulation”, Nature, May 8, 2014, doi:10.1038/nature13316

Further links:
Website of the Illustris Project (with further visualizations): http://www.illustris-project.org
Gauss Centre for Supercomputing: http://www.gauss-centre.eu
SuperMUC at the Leibniz Computing Center: http://www.lrz.de/services/compute/supermuc
AREPO-Code: V. Springel, 2010, MNRAS, 401, 791 http://mnras.oxfordjournals.org/content/401/2/791.full.html

HITS
The Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies is a private, non-profit research institute. As a research institute of the Klaus Tschira Foundation, HITS conducts basic research from astrophysics to cell biology, with a focus on processing and structuring large volumes of data. The institute is jointly managed by Klaus Tschira and Andreas Reuter, and located at the campus area Schloss-Wolfsbrunnenweg 35.

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.h-its.org/english/press/pressreleases.php?we_objectID=1080 HITS press release
http://www.illustris-project.org Website of the Illustris project

Dr. Peter Saueressig | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Further reports about: Galaxies HITS MIT Supercomputer Tschira dark galaxies hydrodynamic matter structure

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht A tale of two pulsars' tails: Plumes offer geometry lessons to astronomers
18.01.2017 | Penn State

nachricht Studying fundamental particles in materials
17.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A big nano boost for solar cells

18.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Glass's off-kilter harmonies

18.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Toward a 'smart' patch that automatically delivers insulin when needed

18.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>