July 20, 2024
Virtual 'universe machine' sheds light on galaxy evolution
A UA-led team of scientists generated millions of different universes on a supercomputer, each of which obeyed different physical theories for how galaxies should form.
A UA-led team of scientists generated millions of different universes on a supercomputer, each of which obeyed different physical theories for how galaxies should form.

How do galaxies such as our Milky Way come into existence? How do they grow and change over time? The science behind galaxy formation has remained a puzzle for decades, but a University of Arizona-led team of scientists is one step closer to finding answers thanks to supercomputer simulations.

Observing real galaxies in space can only provide snapshots in time, so researchers who want to study how galaxies evolve over billions of years have to revert to computer simulations. Traditionally, astronomers have used this approach to invent and test new theories of galaxy formation, one-by-one. Peter Behroozi, an assistant professor at the UA Steward Observatory, and his team overcame this hurdle by generating millions of different universes on a supercomputer, each of which obeyed different physical theories for how galaxies should form.

The findings, published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, challenge fundamental ideas about the role dark matter plays in galaxy formation, how galaxies evolve over time and how they give birth to stars.

“On the computer, we can create many different universes and compare them to the actual one, and that lets us infer which rules lead to the one we see,” said Behroozi, the study’s lead author.

The study is the first to create self-consistent universes that are such exact replicas of the real one: computer simulations that each represent a sizeable chunk of the actual cosmos, containing 12 million galaxies and spanning the time from 400 million years after the Big Bang to the present day.

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See Also:

(1) Milky Way galaxy is warped and twisted, not flat

(2) Nearby ‘Super-Earth’ may be habitable, NASA suggests

(3) Distant ‘heavy metal’ gas planet is shaped like a football

(4) Evidence of 14B year-old ‘time machine’ star found 35,000 light-years from Earth

(5) ‘Water bears’: Hordes of Earth’s toughest creatures may be living on Moon

(6) Big Bang theory wrong? Star older than Universe discovered – threat of ‘scientific crisis’

(7) Dark matter may be older than the big bang, study suggests

(8) Where in the universe can you find a black hole nursery?

(9) Astronomers discover vast ancient galaxies, which could shed light on dark matter

(10) Mysterious, ancient radio signals keep pelting Earth

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