Astro-boffins start opening universe simulation data

Got a supercomputer? Want to simulate a universe? Here you go

Galaxy simulation

The Illustris Project, a universe-scale simulation created in 2013 at MIT and unveiled in May 2014, is now offering its first data products as downloads for researchers.

The large-scale cosmological simulation of galaxy formation, as it describes itself, has half a petabyte containing 12 billion resolution points and in a full run will map the creation of 41,000 galaxies.

It doesn't take a Big Bang starting point, as the project explains, but rather spans the timeframe from when the universe was 300,000 years old through to the present time. Among other things, the project attempts to put enough universe into a supercomputer to model not just how stars and galaxies form, but also the distribution of dark matter to help astrophysicists in their hunt for the stuff that makes up the majority of the “real”* universe.

This week's data release is part of a rollout under which the Illustris Project hopes to release all of its data products by the end of Q1 2015, beginning with derived images.

The project notes that even the derivative products should be rich enough to suit many scientific goals. Because of the fast size of the full snapshots – hundreds of terabytes – “we are still evaluating options” for that release. In the meantime, bounded sub-regions are being explored as an option.

Registrations for data access are open here. ®

*Bootnote: presuming, of course, that we aren't living in a hologram ourselves. ®

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