A new video released by the Center for Astrophysics at the Harvard Smithsonian Museum shows a simulation of the early universe, showing the formation of the first galaxies and the reionization of hydrogen, when neutral atoms of the chemical element were given positive charges, allowing light to spread across the universe. .
The video, which you see below, is part of a broad astronomical study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and also features the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics.
The period in the simulation above took place about 13 billion years ago and, according to the authors of the video, was quite complicated to reproduce, given the little knowledge we have of the extremely ancient epoch and the chaotic reactions between gravity, gas, radiation. and light.
“Most astronomers don’t have laboratories to conduct their experiments,” said Rahul Kannan, an astrophysicist at the Smithsonian and the study’s primary author. “The time and space scales are too big, so the only way we can experiment with them is through computers. We can take basic physics equations and theoretical models of physical governance to simulate what happened at the beginning of the universe.”
With the simulation – called “Thesan” after the Etruscan goddess of sunrise – the team was able to reproduce a relatively large (at least, in our view) part of the universe, 300 million light-years away. of expansion. In this environment, it was possible to see the formation and evolution of hundreds of thousands of galaxies, starting 400 thousand years after the Big Bang and until entering the first billion years.
“It’s kind of like water in ice forms,” said co-author Aaron Smith of MIT. “When you put it in the freezer, it takes a while, but it soon starts to freeze around the edges, slowly closing to the center. This was the same situation at the beginning of the universe — a neutral, dark cosmos that became bright and ionized as light began to emerge from the first galaxies.”
The idea is that the simulation works as a preparation for studies conducted by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). According to the artifact’s specifications, it will be able to look deeper into a more distant past – seeing objects that are 13.5 billion years old. “Many of the telescopes that are about to come online, such as the JWST, are specifically designed to study this era,” Kannan said. “That’s where our simulations come in: they’ll help us interpret real observations from that period and understand what we’re seeing.”
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