Cosmological simulations

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Snapshot from a simulation of the cosmological formation of a cluster of galaxies in an expanding universe.

Computer simulations are a powerful and important tool for understanding the cosmos. A detailed simulation can provide a means for understanding processes which occur on such long time scales (millions or even billions of years) that it is not possible to to observe these events in the universe. Cosmological simulations are used to study galaxy collisions and also the formation of large scale structure in the universe. The introductory lesson below assumes no prior background in astronomy. The advanced lesson requires experience in building computer programs from source code.

Introductory[edit | edit source]

Note: The Galaxy Crash applet is no longer available online. See this link to download the code:

Galaxy Crash lesson

Run the Galaxy Crash applet and try the suggestions in the Lab section.

  • Galaxy Crash "This is an interactive java applet which allows you to model galaxy collisions on your own computer. With this applet you can study how galaxies collide and merge gravitationally and how the effects of the collision depend on the properties of the galaxies. You can also recreate collisions between real interacting galaxies observed in the sky."

Another online simulation is available at Colliding Galaxies

Advanced[edit | edit source]

A simulation of two galaxies colliding and merging generated by GADGET. The elapsed time is shown by T= billions of years.

GADGET was developed from 2000-2005 to run cosmological simulations on massively parallel computers with distributed memory. This older software was selected for this resource due to the fact that the example programs can now be run on a typical personal computer.



Initial conditions

GPU version

  • cuda-gadget - "A modified version of GADGET-2 (Springel 2005) that computes tree forces on GPUs using the CUDA programming interface. Based on G2X by Carsten Frigaard." Version of GADGET-2 for w:GPU hardware.


Other resources

See also[edit | edit source]

A NASA conception of the Andromeda–Milky Way collision using computer-generated imagery.

N-body simulation
Interacting galaxy
Structure formation

References[edit | edit source]