Now, an international collaboration led by astrophysicists at the
These comparisons will help researchers determine which of their simulation results are due to a particular code platform and which are due to the underlying theoretical assumptions common to all of the simulations.
"The physics of galaxy formation is extremely complicated, and the range of lengths, masses, and timescales that need to be simulated is immense," explained
The AGORA project will explore the fundamental astrophysics of galaxy formation in the cosmological context of a "cold dark matter" universe. Although the nature of dark matter remains a mystery, it accounts for about 84 percent of the matter in the universe. As a result, the evolution of structure in the universe has been driven by the gravitational interactions of dark matter ("dark" because it can't be seen, and "cold" because the particles are moving slowly). The ordinary matter that forms stars and planets has fallen into the "gravitational wells" created by clumps of dark matter, giving rise to galaxies in the centers of dark matter halos.
The project's first major task will be to model a realistic isolated disk galaxy using various codes and their feedback recipes, varying both the feedback parameters and the resolution. The second task will be to compare the codes in cosmological simulations. Specifically, all the participating codes will model the evolution of eight individual galaxies from the big bang to the present, resulting in final masses representing a range of galaxy sizes, from that of a dwarf galaxy to one more massive than the
The AGORA project will take advantage of new infrastructure for computational astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, including the "Hyades" supercomputer and a high-capacity data storage system. "Our ability to store and analyze the data here, and make the output of the simulations available to the community at large, has made it possible for us to set up such a large project," Madau said.
The project was initiated in a workshop at UCSC in
A paper describing the project in detail has been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement. The first author is Ji-hoon Kim, formerly a postdoctoral researcher at UCSC and now at CalTech, who is coordinating the project along with the steering committee led by Madau and
AGORA is not the first such comparison of supercomputer simulations of galaxy evolution, but it is the most comprehensive and the highest-resolution (finest detail). Previous astronomical simulation comparison studies were the Santa Barbara Cluster comparison project (1999) and the Aquila comparison project (2012). The AGORA project is an open collaboration and welcomes new participants. AGORA is making all of its initial conditions and common assumptions public, both to make it easy for astrophysicists to join the collaboration and also to raise the level of galaxy simulations worldwide.
"This project will tell us what are the key ingredients that produce realistic galaxies regardless of the numerical codes. It will also challenge the community to put more effort in cross-checking their results against others'," Kim said.
Keywords for this news article include: Dark Matter, Astrophysics,
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