Astrophysicists simulate 14 billion years of cosmic evolution in high resolution


This computer animation, created using new software called Arepo, simulates 9 billion years of cosmic history. Arepo can accurately follow the birth and evolution of thousands of galaxies over billions of years. Arepo generates the full variety of galaxies seen locally, including majestic spirals like the Milky Way and Andromeda.

Credit: CfA/UCSD/HITS/M. Vogelsberger (CfA) & V. Springel (HITS)

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Astrophysicists have created the most realistic computer simulation of the universe’s evolution to date, tracking activity from the Big Bang to now — a time span of around 14 billion years — in high resolution.

Created by a team at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics (CfA) in collaboration with researchers at the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS), the Arepo software provides detailed imagery of different galaxies in the local universe using a technique known as “moving mesh”.

Unlike previous model simulators, such as the Gadget code, Arepo’s hydrodynamic model replicates the gaseous formations following the Big Bang by using a virtual, flexible grid that has the capacity to move to match the motions of the gas, stars, dark matter and dark energy that make up space — it’s like a virtual model of the cosmic web, able to bend and flex to support the matter and celestial bodies that make up the universe. Old simulators instead used a more regimented, fixed, cubic grid.

Written By: Liat Clark
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  1. roedygreen:  Yes.  Assuming you don’t mean ‘exactly’ the local universe around us which is a standard with no value.  This simulation evidently reproduces galaxy formation more accurately than previous simulations.

    I have not read the paper yet but I’ll wager they have used for initial conditions the percentages of normal matter, dark matter, dark energy, scalar spectral index (measure of lumpiness), matter perturbation amplitude (average size of lumps) and the Hubble parameter (expansion rate of the universe) from WMAP (the most accurate measures of these parameters we have).

    Usefulness:  Using observed parameters to run a simulation that ends up accurately producing the universe we see now does two things.  1) It suggests that our measurements of cosmological parameters are accurate and 2) it suggests that our equations that describe nature are accurate.

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