“The universe generated by the computer is just like the real thing. There are galaxies everywhere, with all the shapes, sizes and colours I have seen with the world’s largest telescopes. It is incredible,” said Richard Bower from Durham University.
The simulations took several months to run at the ‘Cosmology Machine’ in Durham and at ‘Curie’ in Paris, among the largest computers used for scientific research in the UK and France, respectively.
The galaxies formed in the EAGLE-simulation (Evolu-tion and Assembly of GaLaxies and their Environments) are a much closer reflection of real galaxies, thanks to the strong galactic winds, which blow away the gas supply needed for the formation of stars.
EAGLE’s galaxies are lighter and younger because fewer stars form and they form later. In the EAGLE simulation, these galactic winds, powered by stars, supernova explosions and supermassive black holes, are stronger than in earlier simulations.
“In the EAGLE universe, I can even press a button to make time run backwards,” Bower said.
Astronomers can now use the results to study the development of galaxies from almost 14 billion years ago until now. “This is the start of a new era for us. We can now manipulate the conditions of the universe and study the evolution of galaxies throughout the past 14 billion years,” said Rob Crain from Liverpool John Moores University.