Engineering 101

Remarkable Simulations of the Universe—Dark Ages Through First Light

Reminiscent of fireflies flickering in the dark, lighting up the screen in chunks and clusters. A simulation of the early universe when the cosmos moved from darkness to a radiant, light-filled environment.

The amazing video is part of the simulations described in a series of three papers accepted to the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Researchers at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics created the simulations. They represent the formation of the first galaxies and reionization, whereby neutral hydrogen atoms in space transform into positively charged, or ionized, hydrogen, spreading light across the dark universe. 

Using simulations named Thesan after the Etruscan goddess of dawn, researchers simulate a segment of the universe, spanning over 300 million light-years across, revealing a gradual change from complete darkness to light.

Researchers created the simulations to prepare for observations from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which will be able to peer further back in time —approximately 13.5 billion years — than predecessors like the Hubble Space Telescope.

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