Researchers Use Supercomputer to Simulate Evolution of Galaxies

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Render of the gas velocity on 10 Mpc scales, although only in a very thin slice of 100 physical kiloparsecs (in the viewing direction). Where the image is black, the gas is hardly moving, while white regions have velocities which exceed 1000 km/s. Centered on the second most massive cluster in TNG100-1 at z=0, gas motions in cosmic filaments are contrasted against the fireball of the deep gravitational potential sitting at their intersection.

Researchers have used a supercomputer to simulate the formation and evolution of galaxies over billions of years.

llustrisTNG is itself an evolving project, with code and a knowledge base that has been shared and refined over many years. The latest endeavor, TNG50, used a 16,000 core supercomputer located in Stuttgart, Germany. The process took the machine an entire year to complete. The simulation spanned an area of 50 megaparsecs – an area so massive, it would take over 200 million years to complete the journey at the speed of light!

Ensemble of the extended intracluster light (ICL) of the twenty most massive clusters in TNG300-1 at redshift zero (present day). This diffuse component of stars arises as satellite galaxies fall into the cluster and are subsequently tidally disrupted.

Why the data matters.

The time clock of this “mock universe” starts shortly after the Big Bang and continues over 13 billion years. It tracks the formation and evolution of over a hundred galaxies. These galaxies are arranged in concentration similar to the Virgo Supercluster, home to our Milky Way. TNG50 boasts the highest resolution for a simulation this massive. This means the data matches in quality to telescopes and instruments used today.

Matching the size and age of our cosmic home at such a high resolution is incredibly valuable today. The data gathered has already shed light on cosmic puzzles involving dark matter and gasses. Yet the surface has only been scratched. Matching events in the simulation to what we observe in real life gives researchers an incredible tool. The team behind TNG plans to release all of their data for public use, to further the progress of understanding our universe.

The gaseous (left) and stellar (right) structure of TNG50 galaxies at high redshift. The top shows a massive disk galaxy at z=2 and a descendant at z=1, while the bottom montage reveals ~750 central galaxies at redshift two, from large ellipticals at the center of galaxy groups to smaller, dwarf systems. 

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