Astrophysicists from Heidelberg, Garching, and the USA gained new insights into the formation and evolution of galaxies. They calculated how black holes influence the distribution of dark matter, how heavy elements are produced and distributed throughout the cosmos, and where magnetic fields originate. This was possible by developing and programming a new simulation model for the universe, which created the most extensive simulations of this kind to date. Some of the first results of the “IllustrisTNG” project have now been published in three articles in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. These findings should help to answer fundamental questions in cosmology.
Fig. Thin slice through the cosmic large-scale structure in the largest simulation of the IllustrisTNG project. The image brightness indicates the mass density and colour visualizes the mean gas temperature of ordinary (“baryonic”) matter. The displayed region extends by about 1.2 billion lightyears from left to right. The underlying simulation is presently the largest magneto-hydrodynamic simulation of galaxy formation, containing more than 30 billion volume elements and particles.
Every galaxy harbours a supermassive black hole at its center. A new computer model now shows how these gravity monsters influence the large-scale structure of our universe. The research team includes scientists from the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS), the Heidelberg University, the Max-Planck-Institutes for Astronomy (MPIA, Heidelberg) and for Astrophysics (MPA, Garching), US universities Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as well as the Center for Computational Astrophysics in New York. The project, “Illustris–The Next Generation” (IllustrisTNG) is the most complete simulation of its kind to date. Based on the basic laws of physics, the simulation shows how our cosmos evolved since the Big Bang. Adding to the predecessor Illustris project, IllustrisTNG includes some of the physical processes which play a crucial role in this evolution for the very first time in such an extensive simulation.