Over the next decade, much effort on major astronomical facilities will be dedicated to large-scale surveys of the galaxy population. Their aim is two-fold: understanding the origin and evolution of galaxies and their central supermassive black holes, and clarifying the nature of dark matter, dark energy and the process that produced all cosmic structure. Achieving these goals will require powerful and flexible modelling tools that can simulate galaxy evolution in all viable cosmologies and under a wide variety of assumptions about the governing physical processes. Such capabilities do not currently exist. I propose to develop them through a major expansion of the functionality and scope of the Millennium Simulation archive. New simulations, new theoretical approaches and new web services will allow users to study galaxy formation across the full range of galaxy masses (from dwarf spheroidals to giant cDs). Remote users will be able to change parameters and modelling prescriptions at will, creating virtual surveys of universes with any chosen cosmology and galaxy formation model. Matching to multiwavelength surveys of real galaxies will make it possible to isolate the physical processes driving galaxy evolution, and to characterize the systematic errors that uncertain galaxy formation physics induce in precision estimates of cosmological parameters. Scientific problems where these new capabilities may be decisive in enabling progress include: the role of supermassive black holes in shaping galaxy formation; the origin of diversity in the forms of galaxies and in their nuclear activity; the effects of environment on galaxy structure; the formation history of our own Milky Way; the nature of the first galaxies and their effects on later and more easily observable generations of galaxies; the distribution and nature of dark matter; the origin of all cosmic structure; and the nature of dark energy.
Fields of science
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