Astronomers have successfully recreated the universe. For the first time, a virtual universe that very closely mimics the real deal has been successfully created.
Until now, astronomers have tried to develop the computer-simulated models of the universe, but haven’t succeeded. The galaxies formed in computer simulations were way off the actual thing. The virtual universes were either too small or much older than the calculations. Moreover, the computers would somehow always create the universe in a perfectly spherical shape. Needless to say, such perfection is never observed in nature, even on astronomical scales.
However, an international team of astronomers, based at the Universities of Leiden in the Netherlands and Durham in the UK and led by Professor Joop Schaye (Leiden University), developed a simulation of the universe in which realistic galaxies are created. The galaxies created within the simulation very closely matched in mass, size, and age of those that have been observed in real life.
The scientists managed to create a model of the real universe, when they incorporated strong galactic winds that emanate from the galaxies. In other words, only when scientists took into consideration the gas that was produced deep within the galaxies which shot outwards, were they able to closely replicate the actual universe. They used EAGLE to build their model.
The EAGLE (Evolution and Assembly of GaLaxies and their Environments) project utilizes calculations for modeling structural formations in cosmological volume, featuring 100 mega-parsecs on a side. In simpler terms, The EAGLE project can synthesize the formation of galaxies on a scale of 300 million light-years. Taking into considerations such massive-sounding albeit relatively modest distance in terms of the universe, the EAGLE project can only virtually recreate about 10,000 galaxies, with each being the size of our very own Milky Way.
Of course, to compare the virtually created galaxies with the actual ones, the EAGLE project had to rely on Hubble telescope, or more specifically, the Hubble Deep field, an array of lenses trained to peer deep into the universe. Despite the ability to create only 10,000 galaxies, the EAGLE project used close to seven billion particles to demonstrate the physics behind their formation.
Speaking about the project, Richard Bower, co-author of the study, said, “The Universe generated by the computer is just like the real thing. There are galaxies everywhere, with all the shapes, sizes and colors I’ve seen with the world’s largest telescopes. It is incredible. In the EAGLE Universe, I can even press a button to make time run backwards.”
Besides unraveling the mysteries of the universe, the EAGLE project could also help to confidently determine one of the Universe’s most elusive phenomena: dark matter, the mysterious matter that accounts for most of the matter in the entire Universe. Roughly 70 percent of the universe is made of dark matter, but to date, even brilliant minds have only been able to postulate about it.
There’s even an app to experience the creation of the universe.
[Image Credit | Institute for Computational Cosmology, Astronoteen]