Scientists have created simulations, from the Big Bang to the present, using a supercomputer to recreate the full evolution of the universe.
Using advanced statistical techniques, simulations are conditional on the reproduction of our specific spot of the universe, and therefore contain the current structures in the vicinity of our galaxy that astronomers have observed for decades.
This means that familiar structures within our local universe, such as galaxy clusters, the Virgin and the Great Wall, were reproduced in the simulation.
The simulation center has a pair of galaxies – the hypothetical counterparts of our Milky Way galaxy and Serial Woman galaxy.
During their research, the scientists found that our local universe patch may be unusual as simulations predicted fewer galaxies than in a medium region of the universe due to the widespread decline in local dark matter density.
While the level of this lack of density is not a challenge to the standard model of cosmology, it may have consequences for how we interpret information from observed galactic surveys.
The simulation, called Sibelius-Dark, is also part of the Simulations Beyond the Local Universe (Sibelius) project.
It covers an area of up to 600 million light-years of Earth and is represented by more than 130 billion mitted particles, requiring several thousand computers running several weeks and producing more than one petabyte of data.
The simulation was conducted on the DiRAC COSmology MAchine (Cosma) run by the Institute of Computational Cosmology at Durham University.
Researchers from around the world were involved in the research, including from Durham University, and was led by the University of Helsinki.
The results were published on arXiv.org and as a preprint in the Journal of Monthly Notifications of the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Professor Carlos Frenk, Ogden Professor of Fundamental Physics at Durham University’s Institute of Computational Cosmology, said: “It’s very exciting to see the familiar structures we know exist around us emanating from computer calculations. Simulations simply reveal the results of the laws of physics acting on dark matter and cosmic gas for 13.7 billion years the universe was around. The fact that we have been able to reproduce these familiar structures provides impressive support for the standard Cold Dark Matter model and tells us that we are on track to understand the evolution of the entire universe.”
Dr Stuart McAlpine, a former Durham PhD student who is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki, said: “By mimicking our universe, as we see it, we are one step closer to understanding the nature of our universe. This simulation shows that the current groundbreaking theory of cosmology, the cold dark matter model, can produce all the galaxies we see in our home country, which is a key criterion for the success of simulations of this kind. This project provides an important bridge between decades of theory and astronomical observation.”