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Astrophysicists Report First Simulation to Create a Milky Way-Like Galaxy

By ­niversity of California, Santa Cruz

September 1, 2011

University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) researchers recently solved a long-standing physics problem by using Eris, a supercomputer simulation that created a spiral galaxy matching the Milky Way.

"Previous efforts to form a massive disk galaxy like the Milky Way had failed, because the simulated galaxies ended up with huge central bulges compared to the size of the disk," says UCSC researcher Javiera Guedes.

The project required a large investment of supercomputer time, including 1.4 million processor hours on the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Pleiades supercomputer, plus additional supporting simulations on supercomputers at UCSC and the Swiss National Supercomputing Center.

"This is the first simulation that is able to resolve the high-density clouds of gas where star formation occurs, and the result is a Milky Way type of galaxy with a small bulge and a big disk," says UCSC professor Piero Madau. Guedes notes that "a lot of physics goes into the code--gravity and hydrodynamics, star formation, and supernova explosions--and this is the highest resolution cosmological simulation ever done this way."

From University of California, Santa Cruz
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