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!
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.