EU-funded cosmologists in the UK have produced images detailing the 'Cosmic Dawn', the arrangement of the first big galaxies in the universe. The team of researchers, whose results were published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, hope the computer-simulated results will advance our understanding of dark matter, the material believed to make up most of the universe's mass. The work of the team at Durham University's Institute for Computational Cosmology (ICC) in the UK was supported in part by the EU's Alfa II, a programme of cooperation between higher education institutions of the European Union and Latin America. The images produced give a perspective of how the universe would have looked 500 million years after the Big Bang, just when the universe is thought to have started expanding. The Cosmic Dawn began when galaxies started to form out of the fragments of immense stars, which exploded shortly after the universe's foundations were put into place. Some 13 billion years later, the scientists' predictions indicate where these galaxies are, and how they have progressed over time. Their calculations were confirmed by colleagues at the Catholic University of Santiago in Chile. Essentially, the team went back in time to further understand how galaxies were made, and importantly, to understand more about dark matter. 'The presence of dark matter is the key to building galaxies; without dark matter we wouldn't be here today,' explained lead author Alvaro Orsi, currently a research postgraduate at ICC. The team combined a semi-analytical model of galaxy formation with a massive simulation that followed the growth of a large-scale structure in a 'Lambda-Cold Dark Matter' universe in order to predict the clustering of 'Lyman alpha emitters'. To understand how a galaxy is formed, knowledge of dark matter (and the gravity that it creates) is highly significant. The Durham researchers are hopeful that their work will contribute to the pool of information currently available, and possibly allow scientists to learn more about dark matter by studying the effects of the gravity it produces. According to ICC's Royal Society Research Fellow Dr Carlton Baugh, 'Our research predicts which galaxies are growing through the formation of stars at different times in the history of the universe, and how these relate to the dark matter.' 'Computational cosmology plays an important part in our understanding of the universe,' remarked Chief Executive of the Science and Technology Facilities Council, Professor Keith Mason. 'Not only do these simulations allow us to look back in time to the early universe but they complement the work and observations of our astronomers.'
Chile, United Kingdom