Home Sciences A “time machine” reaches the origins of the universe

A “time machine” reaches the origins of the universe


A sophisticated simulation, which works like a time machine, has revealed how the distant universe 11,000 million light years developed, when the ancient ancestors of galaxy clusters shaped the current universe.

Researchers at the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (Kavli IPMU) in Japan have developed groundbreaking simulations that recreate the full life cycle of some of the largest and most distant known galaxies in the observable universe.

Cosmological simulations are crucial to studying how the universe got the way it is today, but many don’t often match what astronomers see through telescopes.

Most simulations are designed to match the real universe only in a statistical sense. Others, more restricted, are designed to reproduce only the structures that we actually observe in the universe.

However, most existing cosmological simulations have been applied to our local universe, that is, the one near Earth, but never to observations of the distant universe.

Time Machine

The authors of the new research, led Metin Ata Y Khee Gan Leehave now accomplished that feat: working on cosmological simulations that until now had only been used to reproduce the history of nearby regions of the universe, to replicate the development of parts of the distant universe in similar detail.

These new simulations were designed to reproduce the earliest structures in the observable universe and learn how they interact with each other.

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The researchers focused on distant structures called massive galaxy protoclusters, which are ancient ancestors of galaxy clusters observable in the universe today.

According to the researchers, the new simulation performs the same function as a time Machinesince it allows to recreate cosmic events of the ancient past and to observe how the structures of the distant universe began to form and how they ended.

11 billion light years away

To achieve this effect, the researchers used data on “young” grandparent galaxies, which are 11 billion light-years away, before fast-forwarding to show how galaxy clusters would form.

As a point of reference, the most distant observed galaxy from Earth was GN-z11which is located about 13.5 billion light-years from our planet.

Thanks to this simulation, the scientists discovered three protoclusters of galaxies that until now had only been considered as theoretical, and also suggested that it is unlikely that another protocluster existed.

They also identified five other structures that formed consistently in their simulations, including the protosupercluster. Hyperionthe largest and oldest known to date: It existed when the universe was less than 20 percent of its current age, about 2.7 billion years.

cosmological model

Another important reason the researchers created these simulations was to test the standard model of cosmology, which is used to describe the physics of the universe.

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By predicting the final mass and distribution of structures in a given space, the researchers could reveal previously undetected discrepancies in our current understanding of the universe.

The scientists explain that one of the biggest challenges was taking into account the massive scale of these ancient galaxy clusters in their simulations.

They add that their simulations are already being used to help other projects, including studies on the absorption lines of distant quasars and the cosmological environment of galaxies.

cosmic dawn

In March, MIT scientists announced that they had developed the most detailed simulation of the early universe to date.

This simulation allowed us to observe how the “cosmic dawn” began, the moment in which light began to flow freely through the entire electromagnetic spectrum and the Universe finally lit up.

Both the MIT and Kavli IPMU projects help improve our understanding of the cosmos by allowing scientists to compare data from simulations with increasingly impressive observations from the James Webb Space Telescope and other similar missions.

ReferencePredicted future fate of COSMOS galaxy protoclusters over 11 Gyr with constrained simulations. Metin Ata et la. Nature Astronomy (2022). DOI:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-022-01693-0

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