MIT and Harvard researchers have created the Illustris simulation, a computer model of the universe that is so accurate it can reproduce an image that looks like it was taken by the Hubble Ultra Deep Field Space Telescope.
Illustris was developed by taking into consideration the laws of physics, how stars evolve, how gases cool, how heavy chemical elements are produced, and other scientific facts, the Los Angeles Times reports. It's a model so complex that if the average desktop computer attempted to run the simulation seen in the video below once, it would take 2,000 years.
To create that video, researchers used a super computer in France and a super computer in Germany. It features dark matter, gas fields, and feedback from super-massive black holes. "Watching the video is like flying through the universe way faster than the speed of light and watching galaxies as they are assembling," Paul Torrey, an astronomy graduate student at Harvard who helped develop Illustris, told the Times. "Our work here has only just begun. Now that we have this model, our job is to understand it in as much detail as possible."
This is just one of many projects that can come from the Illustris simulation. To see what else it has to offer — including an explorer that allows anyone to investigate different parts of this virtual universe — visit the Illustris website. --Catherine Garcia