Analyzing The Past With Supercomputers

in GEMS13 days ago

Cosmological inflation is one of the biggest mysteries of current cosmology. It happened a very long time ago and our Universe has changed significantly since.


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Image by Daniel Hannah from Pixabay

Researching the very first moments of existence is obviously quite hard as it took place in very ancient times – billions of years ago. The Universe was quite different back then so our research is all based on indirect evidence. But there are still different ways we could learn.

Masato Shirasaki from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) and his team used the massive computational power of the ATERUI II supercomputer to simulated thousands of universes. This, in combination with new observations, pushed our understanding of the still very mysterious and unclear time of cosmological inflation that made the Universe grew when it wasn’t older than just a single moment.

Cosmological inflation – if it truly did take place – should’ve created fluctuations in how matter is spread in the Universe and this later affected in which places galaxies, stars and planets can be found. Thus, detailed mapping of where galaxies are in the Universe could make it clear which inflation models are at least potentially correct and which are not. But there’s an additional problem. More things are affecting the spread of galaxies than just cosmological inflation. For example, the growth of galaxy clusters can becloud the original fluctuations.

To combat this, Shirasaki and his colleagues rewound the cosmic clock in their supercomputer simulations. At the same time, they removed the effects of gravity from large structures in the Universe in their simulations. The supercomputer ATERUI II that works for NAOJ is currently the most powerful supercomputer in the world that works on astrophysical simulations. The scientists created 4,000 universes in this supercomputer and simulated their evolution including the growth of structures because of gravity. Then they developed a method that allowed them to turn back time and make visible the original fluctuations of matter in the Universe before gravity coming from large structures started affecting it.

This method seems to be very effective. It will allow us to test cosmological inflation models that will be based on just a tenth of the observations needed compared to today. Thus, the simulations reduced the amount of needed time to research cosmological inflation.

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