Virtual 'universe machine' sheds light on galaxy evolution

ScienceDaily | 8/9/2019 | Staff
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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.

Computer - Universes - Rules - One - Behroozi

"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.

Ex-Machina - Universe - Series - Tests - Galaxies

Each "Ex-Machina" universe was put through a series of tests to evaluate how similar galaxies appeared in the generated universe compared to the true universe. The universes most similar to our own all had similar underlying physical rules, demonstrating a powerful new approach for studying galaxy formation.

The results from the "UniverseMachine," as the authors call their approach, have helped resolve the long-standing paradox of why galaxies cease to form new stars even when they retain plenty of hydrogen gas, the raw material from which stars are forged.

Ideas - Galaxies - Stars - Interplay - Cold

Commonly held ideas about how galaxies form stars involve a complex interplay between cold...
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