The infant universe transforms from a shapeless landscape to a complex web in a new supercomputing simulation of the world’s formative years.
An animation from the simulation shows our universe changing from a light, cold vapor cloud to the clumpy scattering of galaxies and stars we see today. This is the most complete, detailed and accurate reproduction of the evolution of the universe yet produced, researchers report in November. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
This virtual exploration into the cosmos’ past originates from CoDaIII, the third iteration of the Aurora Cosmic Project, which traces the history of the universe, beginning with the “cosmic dark ages” about 10 million years after the Big Bang. At that point, the hot vapor at the very beginning of time, about 13.8 billion years ago, cooled to a shapeless cloud without light, says astronomer Paul Shapiro of the University of Texas at Austin.
About 100 million years later, tiny circles in the excess gas from the Big Bang caused the gases to clump together (SN: 2/19/15). This led to the long, filamentous filaments that formed the web of matter in which galaxies and stars were born.
When radiation from early galaxies lit up the universe, electrons were ejected from atoms in cold gas clouds once during an interval called reionization, which continued until about 700 million years after the Big Bang.SN: 2/6/17).
CoDaIII is the first simulation to fully account for the complex interaction between radiation and the flow of matter in the universe, Shapiro says. Time spans from the dark cosmic ages and over the next several billion years as the distribution of matter in the modern universe is formed.
Animation from the simulation, Shapiro says, graphically shows how the structure of the early universe “is imprinted on galaxies today that remember their youth, or their birth, or their ancestors from the age of reionization.”
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