'Most Complete' Simulation of the Universe Helps Illuminate Dark Matter 'Halos' [VIDEO]

Hubble Space Telescope image, gravitaional lensing, dark matter, supercluster Abell 1689
Strong gravitational lensing as observed by the Hubble Space Telescope in Abell 1689 indicates the presence of dark matter—enlarge the image to see the lensing arcs

It is being called the “most complete simulation of the universe” so far constructed… in 3D, of course! It’s most certainly mesmerizing…but why try to simulate the universe?

Understanding how the largest visible structures in the universe were formed helps astrophysicists better understand the mysterious “pulling” force known as dark matter, which is responsible, it is theorized, for keeping galaxies together (amongst other important things). 3D simulations are the best ways to understand what the raw data are saying about how this dark matter works (plus, they’re amazingly beautiful).

dark matter halo
Simulated dark matter halo from a cosmological N-body simulation

Three astrophysical scientists (Klypin, Primack, Henze) at NASA Ames Research Center, in Mountainview, California, were particularly interested in hypothetical phenomena known as dark matter halos. Using the Center’s supercomputer constellation, the scientists built a 3D simulation — called a ‘Bolshoi’ simulation — using trillions of data points so as to study how such halos evolved.

The simulation was based upon the ‘Lambda Cold Dark Matter’ model, or the Lambda-CDM model, which is also known as the ‘cold dark matter model with dark energy’ (note: dark energy is the hypothetical “pushing” force responsible for the accelerating expansion of the universe)

The  Lamba-CDM model is the basis of the Standard Model of Big Bang Cosmology which is the simplest model that is in agreement with most observations.

The model accounts for the structure of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), galaxy clusters, the distribution of the lighter elements (i.e., hydrogen, helium, deuterium and the metal lithium), and the accelerated expansion of the universe (supported by observations of type 1a supernovae)

Watch the incredible universe evolution simulation!

Simulation Credit: Anatoly Klypin / Joel Primack / Chris Henze / NASA

top photo: NASA, N. Benitez (JHU), T. Broadhurst (Racah Institute of Physics/The Hebrew University), H. Ford (JHU), M. Clampin (STScI),G. Hartig (STScI), G. Illingworth (UCO/Lick Observatory), the ACS Science Team and ESA

bottom photo: (dark matter halo) Cosmo0


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