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The Most Accurate Simulation of the Universe to Date

May 07, 2014 03:53 PM EDT
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Experts have used a supercomputer to craft  what they are claiming is the most comprehensive model of the ever-expanding universe to date, according to a recent study.

The study, published in journal Nature, details how scientists were able to create a model of the formation of the universe that accurately portrays the movement of stars, planets, gasses, and other various masses of "small" ordinary matter that are generally ignored or inaccurately portrayed in most simulations of the  universe simply due to a lack of processing power.

Even with a super-computer, mapping and then simulating the formation of the entire universe is a physical impossibility, as many experts would describe the universe as immeasurable. However, according to the study, researchers determined that a portion of the universe 330 million light-years wide was large enough to contain all the important elements of the universe expressed in various interactions with one another. In this sense, this portion of the observable universe served as the "sample-population" for the team's universe model.

Using a next-generation super computer, a team from the Massachusetts institute of Technology (MIT), created a simulation called "Illustris" capable of mapping out all major elements of the universe, including stars, galaxies, and masses of gas. Based off data provided by other experts and previous studies of the cosmos, the simulation stretched all the way back to right after the formation of the universe, theorized to have occurred with a "Big Bang."

The model's resulting video - the simulation in question - shows how dark matter becomes gravitationally attracted to itself, forming massive grey streaks across a stark black universe. Ordinary matter, the study explains, is then attracted to these spots, eventually forming galaxies, stars, black holes, and all the trimmings we associate with the universe today.

It is the hope that the details of this simulation, including reports such as the "projected number density profile of satellite galaxies in satellite clusters," will help scientists gain a greater understanding of the formation of the universe.

Additionally, the simulation was a great accomplishment in itself, showing how advancing progressing technologies are enabling scientific feats once thought too complicated to attempt.

The study was published in Nature on May 7.

You can watch a video of the resulting simulation here.

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