May 8 - Using a groundbreaking computer program that took five years to develop, scientists from research institutions around the world have unveiled the most realistic virtual universe ever created. The system reproduces more than 13 billion years of cosmic evolution which the researchers hope will provide new insights on the forces that shape the universe. Ben Gruber reports.
It took 8000 computers running for three months to create this, the most realistic computer simulation of the universe ever developed. Using a computer programme called Illustris, researchers were able to create a virtual simulation beginning just 12 million years after the big bang, mapping 13.8 billion years of cosmic evolution in unprecedented detail. These cubes, 350 billion light years across, shows how factors like the energy produced by supermassive black holes, star formation, and radiation interacted to form the universe as we know it today. The researchers say what sets their virtual universe apart is its scale and accuracy. Even more important they say, is the model's ability to accurately map the small-scale evolution of the gas and stars that make up elliptical and spiral galaxies. The scientists say that by gaining a better understanding of the interplay between large and small cosmic forces, they can learn more about the roles played by dark matter and dark energy in the formation of the universe.