NASA Supercomputer Simulation Shows Massive Galaxy Forming by Feeding on Cosmic Swirly Straws

Posted on May 27, 2013

This supercomputer simulation from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory shows the formation of a massive galaxy during the first 2 billion years of the universe. NASA calls the simulation, "Cosmic Swirly Straws Feed Galaxy."

The simluation shows cold gas flowing into the core of the galaxy along filaments. The gas is converted into new stars once it gets into the core of the galaxy, which gets bigger and bigger as more stars form. This theory of galaxy formation where cold gas is funneled along filaments into the center of the galaxy is known as the "cold-mode" theory.

Kyle Stewart, lead author of the new study appearing in the May 20th issue of the Astrophysical Journal, said in a statement, "Galaxy formation is really chaotic. It took us several hundred computer processors, over months of time, to simulate and learn more about how this process works."

Alyson Brooks, a co-author of the paper and expert in galaxy simulations at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, says, "The simulations are like a gigantic game of chess. For each point in time, we have to figure out how a given particle -- our chess piece -- should move based on the positions of all of the other particles. There are tens of millions of particles in the simulation, so figuring out how the gravitational forces affect each particle is time-consuming."

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