A galaxy in a computer

A simulated top-down view of the Milky Way galaxy


After many and tries by several teams, one group of astronomers have succeeded in developing a fair facsimile of the entire Milky Way galaxy using the known laws of physics and a few ideas from leading theorists:

“Previous efforts to form a massive disk galaxy like the Milky Way had failed, because the simulated galaxies ended up with huge central bulges compared to the size of the disk,” said Javiera Guedes, a graduate student in astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and first author of a paper on the new simulation, called “Eris.”

How’d they do it? Well, first you need nearly unlimited access to NASA’s state of the art Pleiades super computer. Then it’s simply a matter of:

To perform the Eris simulation, the researchers began with a low-resolution simulation of dark matter evolving to form the haloes that host present-day galaxies. Then they chose a halo with an appropriate mass and merger history to host a galaxy like the Milky Way and “rewound the tape” back to the initial conditions. Zooming in on the small region that evolved into the chosen halo, they added gas particles and greatly increased the resolution of the simulation. High resolution means tracking the interactions of a huge number of particles.


  1. says

    Man I’d have loved to work with the guys doing this. I’ve toyed with simulating mass in space on various platforms. Physics programming is fun so working on something that required and uses Pleiades would be… the most awesome.

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