The purpose of the simulation, according to the University of California, Santa Cruz (where one of the lead researchers hails from) is to “compute and model the evolution of dark matter halos.” Such a thing would be very handy to an astronomer who is trying to research the change of the universe over time. By creating a simulation that allows the researchers to look at massive areas of space and manipulate them from different angles, run time forward and backwards, etc., the researchers can gain more of an overall understanding of the literal shape and form of our universe. They can look for patterns and learn how to better detect, classify, and predict what they will see happen.
As such, the new simulation will be extremely useful to astronomers. A previous simulation, called WMAP1, is now known to be incorrect in its parameters. But, when it was thought to be true, researchers used it to write over 400 academic papers. Based on the accuracy the Bolshoi simulation is demonstrating, there is no telling just how many researchers it is going to assist.
So, what is the big deal with dark matter, anyway? Well, that’s just the thing. Scientists are trying to figure that out. There are solar systems, loose stars, wandering planets, debris, and all other sorts of things that swirl, cluster, and clump together to form various kinds of galaxies. Those galaxies are all kind of thrown together in an unimaginably huge space; our universe. In between all those millions and billions of galaxies is dark matter, a mysterious dark…stuff, really… that has fascinated astronomers ever since it was first detected. Hopefully by using this supercomputer simulation, researchers can study how it has changed over time and determine a little more about its characteristics, which will, in turn, help them determine how this seeming nothingness can help shape our universe.
For more information please call 229-432-6955. Credit: UCSC. Image credit: Stefan Gottlober (AIP).