The digital universe that lives inside a supercomputer

A computer model showing the structure of the universe one billion years after the Big Bang, the green swirls represent dark matter and the circles represent growing galaxies.

The institute is focusing on two main projects, one to model galaxy formation from a time soon after the Big Bang until present day, the second to model the gas outside of galaxies, particularly in clusters and groups of galaxies.

The ultimate goal of this modelling is to produce galaxies whose characteristics match measurements of real life galaxies taken by astronomers, and then use those models to help understand the processes that are important in producing these galaxies.

The simulations produced by the institute have modelled certain structures in the universe with a high degree of accuracy – such as the strings of diffuse matter that exist between galaxies – which researchers say indicates that their models of galaxy formation are on the right track.

Photo: Sarah Noble and Vicky Greener, department of physics, Durham University

By Nick Heath

Nick Heath is a computer science student and was formerly a journalist at TechRepublic and ZDNet.