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Recreating a Slice of the Universe

Center for Astrophysics (08/15/12) David A. Aguilar

Researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) have developed Arepo, software that can accurately follow the birth and evolution of thousands of galaxies over billions of years.  “We’ve created the full variety of galaxies we see in the local universe,” says CfA’s Mark Vogelsberger.  Arepo generates a full simulation of the universe, taking as input only the observed afterglow of the Big Bang and evolving forward in time for 14 billion years.  “We took all the advantages of previous codes and removed the disadvantages,” says HITS researcher Volker Springel.  Arepo utilizes a grid that flexes and moves in space to match the motions of the underlying gas, stars, dark matter, and dark energy.  The simulations ran on Harvard’s Odyssey high-performance supercomputer, using 1,024 processor cores, which enabled the program to compress 14 billion years of universal evolution into a few months.  “Our simulations improve over previous ones as much as the Giant Magellan Telescope will improve upon any telescope that exists now,” notes CFa’s Debora Sijacki.

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