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October 3, 2011

Pleiades Shines Light on Dark Matter

Nicole Hemsoth

This week astrophysicists from the University of California, Santa Cruz and New Mexico State University harnessed the power of Pleiades, a top ten supercomputer housed at Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California to generate the largest and most realistic simulations of the universe in its infancy.

The simulation, which is called Bolshoi (the Russian word for grand) took over four years to develop. It tracks the movement of large bodies through space, to demonstrate how dark matter surrounds galaxies and provide gravity to glue them together.

Anatoly Klypin, professor of astronomy at New Mexico State, who wrote the computer code for the simulation. Klypin noted, “These huge cosmological simulations are essential for interpreting the results of ongoing astronomical observations and for planning the new large surveys of the universe that are expected to help determine the nature of the mysterious dark energy,”

Klypin went on to discuss the size of the data sets involved—and what is possible when that information is made available to more researchers. He told IBTimes, “We’ve released a lot of the data so that other astrophysicists can start to use it. So far it’s less than 1 percent of the actual output, because the total output is so huge, but there will be additional releases in the future,” Primack said.

According to Joel Primack who heads the simulation program at UC Santa Cruz, “The simulation corroborates the accuracy of models that astronomers have built to clarify how the Big Bang theory initiated the source of subatomic particles and galaxies that inhabit our growing universe.”

This research will allow scientists to better understand how galaxies formed as well as dark matter and dark energy formation and properties.