Jun 11, 2022 - Science

New simulations reveal evolution of galaxy clusters

Screenshots of the simulation showing matter distribution in the universe

A simulation of the universe. Image: Ata et al/Kavli

Scientists have created models that mimic the lives and structures of huge groupings of galaxies seen in the early universe, 11 billion years ago, a new study reports.

Why it matters: By having simulations that show the machinations of these galaxy clusters on a large scale, scientists will be able to test fundamental aspects of our understanding of the nature and physics of the universe.

What they found: The new study, published in the journal Nature Astronomy, simulated protoclusters of galaxies — the predecessors to current galaxy clusters — to see if they could reproduce what's currently observed.

  • “We wanted to try developing a full simulation of the real distant universe to see how structures started out and how they ended,” Metin Ata of the Kavli Institute and an author of the study said in a statement.
  • The team of researchers essentially took images of distant galaxies and used the simulation to speed up their evolution to see how galaxy clusters would form.
  • This marks the first time a simulation has successfully re-created these detailed, galaxy cluster life cycles, according to the study.

The big picture: These types of simulations can also be used to put the standard model of cosmology to the test, according to the researchers behind the study.

  • "By predicting the final mass and final distribution of structures in a given space, researchers could unveil previously undetected discrepancies in our current understanding of the universe," a press release says.
  • The simulations even show the Hyperion proto-supercluster — the largest known and with 5,000 times the mass of our galaxy — will collapse, stretching into a 300 million light-year-long thread of galaxies and matter one day.
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