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10 billion years in 78 seconds: scientists use supercomputer to model universe

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Scientists from the US and Germany have used a supercomputer and innovative new software to produce a partial simulation of the life of the universe.

Arepo universe simulation still
Arepo universe simulation still

Forget SimCity — scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) have used a 1,024-core supercomputer to produce a partial simulation of the life of the universe, modelling thousands of individual stars and galaxies. The researchers used software called Arepo, which improves on older techniques by using an innovative flexible grid to model space rather than dividing it into discrete cubes. Even with this boosted performance, the roughly minute-long video below — which begins 4 billion years after the Big Bang and travels forward another 10 billion — took months to render, and would have taken centuries on an ordinary desktop machine. The team behind the simulation aims to produce even more detailed versions in future, taking larger areas of the universe and modelling them at a higher resolution.