Spontaneous generation of reality is messy.
The Big Bang, for example, unleashed the universe’s worth of energy and matter in an instant, then pushed it away in all directions at the speed of light as temperatures throughout the growing universe exceeded 1,000 trillion degrees Celsius in the first nanosecond of time’s existence. The next hundreds of million years, during which the universe cooled to the point that particles beyond quarks and photons could exist—when actual atoms like hydrogen and helium appeared—are known as dark ages, at the expense of stars that don’t yet exist to provide light.
Eventually, however, vast clouds of elemental gases pressed in on themselves enough to ignite, illuminating the previously dark universe and leading a process This is why the universe is not just a whole bunch of hydrogen and helium atoms. The actual process of how the light from those new stars interacts with the surrounding clouds of gas to form ionized plasma that generated heavier elements is not fully understood but a team of that their mathematical model for this turbulent era is the largest and most detailed yet devised.
The Simulator, named in honor Goddess of Dawn, simulating the period of cosmic reionization by looking at the interactions between gases, gravity and radiation in an area of 100 million cubic light-years. Researchers can look at a synthetic timeline from 400,000 years to a billion years after the Big Bang to see how changing different variables within the model affects the results generated.
“Thesan acts as a bridge to the early universe,” said Aaron Smith, a NASA Einstein Fellow at the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. . “Its purpose is to serve as an ideal simulated analog for upcoming observing facilities, which is poised to fundamentally change our understanding of the universe.”
It features greater detail in greater magnitude than any previous simulation thanks to a new algorithm that tracks the interaction of light with gas that matches the formation of a separate galaxy and models the behavior of cosmic dust.
Rahul Kanan of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics on the project, said MIT news. “This way, we automatically follow the reionization process as they arise.”
Running this simulation is A supercomputer in Garching, Germany. The 60,000 computing cores equate to 30 million CPU hours working in parallel to crunch the numbers that Thesan needs. The team has already seen surprising results from the experiment, too.
“Thesan found that light does not travel great distances in the early universe,” Cannan said. “In fact, this distance is very small, and it only becomes large at the end of reionization, increasing 10-fold in just a few hundred million years.”
That is, the light at the end of the reionization period has traveled farther than the researchers had previously thought. They also note that the galaxy’s type and mass may influence the reionization process, although Thesan’s team was quick to point out that support for real-world observations was needed before this hypothesis could be confirmed.
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