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Recreating Our Galaxy in a Supercomputer

September 7, 2016

A new simulation of our Milky Way galaxy's formation has led to the solution of a decades-old mystery.

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Videos


Supercomputers Solve Case of Missing Galaxies  (3 minutes, 5 seconds)

Caltech Associate Professor of Theoretical Astrophysics Phil Hopkins and Carnegie-Caltech Research Fellow Andrew Wetzel use massive supercomputers to build the most detailed and powerful simulation of galaxy formation ever created. The results solve a decades-long mystery regarding dwarf galaxies around our Milky Way.

Credit: Caltech

▼ Download MP4 (323 MB) or ProRes (2.4 GB)


Flying Through a Simulated Milky Way  (46 seconds)

Animation of our Milky Way galaxy based on a detailed supercomputer simulation. The movie zooms in and out of the galaxy, showing what it would look like in visible wavelengths. Blue regions are young star clusters which have blown away the gas and dust out of which they formed. Red regions are obscured by large amounts of dust.

Credit: Hopkins Research Group/Caltech

▼ Download MP4 (31 MB)


The Making of the Milky Way  (1 minute, 52 seconds)

Simulated view of the formation of our Milky Way galaxy. The simulation begins moments after the birth of the universe 13.8 billion years ago and ends with our mature, present-day Milky Way galaxy. Pockets of matter are seen growing in size, and merging with each other, due to the force of gravity. The clock in the corner denotes the passage of time using a convention astronomers refer to as redshift, or "z." The universe begins at a z value of 30, while the present-day has a z value of zero.

Credit: Hopkins Research Group/Caltech

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Interviews


Andrew Wetzel Clip 01  (58 seconds)

Andrew Wetzel, Caltech-Carnegie research fellow, talks about connecting the Big Bang to our present-day Milky Way galaxy. He wants to address the question of where we came from.

Credit: Caltech

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Andrew Wetzel Clip 02  (53 seconds)

Andrew Wetzel, Caltech-Carnegie research fellow, talks about using a simulation of our Milky Way galaxy to predict the numbers of dwarf galaxies surrounding it. He describes the "aha" moment of realizing that they could correctly predict dwarf galaxies in numbers similar to what is observed.

Credit: Caltech

▼ Download 1080p H264 (65 MB) or 1080p ProRes (850 MB)


Phil Hopkins Clip 01  (34 seconds)

Phil Hopkins, associate professor of theoretical astrophysics at Caltech, describes the most realistic, sophisticated simulation of our Milky Way galaxy to date—a tool astronomers use to trace how the galaxy developed.

Credit: Caltech

▼ Download 1080p H264 (42.1 MB) or 1080p ProRes (555 MB)


Phil Hopkins Clip 02  (1 minute, 28 seconds)

Phil Hopkins, associate professor of theoretical astrophysics at Caltech, discusses how to create detailed simulations of our Milky Way galaxy using the force of gravity.

Credit: Caltech

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Phil Hopkins Clip 03  (2 minutes, 12 seconds)

Phil Hopkins, associate professor of theoretical astrophysics at Caltech, describes how simulating our Milky Way galaxy solved a decades-old mystery surrounding the dwarf galaxies that orbit the Milky Way.

Credit: Caltech

▼ Download 1080p H264 (161 MB) or 1080p ProRes (2.1 GB)

 

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Images

Simulated View of Milky Way Galaxy
Simulated view of our Milky Way galaxy, seen from a nearly face-on angle. This image was created by simulating the formation of our galaxy using a supercomputer, which, in this case, consisted of 2,000 computers linked together.

Credit: Hopkins Research Group/Caltech

▼ Download original (665 x 700): JPG (102 KB)

Simulating Our Galaxy and Its Little Companions
In a new simulation of the formation of our Milky Way galaxy, astronomers were able to, for the first time, correctly predict the number of dwarf galaxies observed today. Dwarf galaxies are small galaxies that swarm around the outside of the Milky Way. Prior simulations found thousands of dwarf galaxies—far more than the 30 or so observed so far. This image from the new simulation shows our galaxy with the correct number of dwarf galaxies. The streak is a tidal tail from a torn-apart dwarf galaxy.

Credit: Hopkins Research Group/Caltech

▼ Download original (1000 x 994): JPG (232 KB)

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