Early Universe Had Milky Way-like Galaxies, Massive Simulation Reveals

First Posted: Aug 06, 2015 12:49 PM EDT

Milky Way-like galaxies may have existed in the early universe. A new computer simulation reveals that large disk galaxies, much like our own Milky Way, may have existed in the early days of the universe.

The simulation actually shows the early universe a mere 500 million years after the Big Bang. Surprisingly, this simulation shows that the universe may have had more order and structure during that time than previously thought.

"It's awe inspiring to think that galaxies much like our own existed when the universe was so young," said Tiziana Di Matteo, one of the researchers, in a news release. "The deepest Hubble Space Telescope observations have thus only covered small volumes of space and have found very irregular, clumpy galaxies at these early epochs. It is not surprising that in these small volumes some of the small galaxies do not have regular morphologies like large disk galaxies. Similarly, numerical simulations have been limited in size so they have only made predictions for the smaller, clumpier galaxies at these early times."

The current simulation is about 100 times larger than previous simulations. In fact, it was so large that it monopolized all of the National Science Foundation (NSF) supercomputer BlueWater's memory and almost 1 million CPUs in order to complete the simulation.

"Theoretically we thought that when the universe was only 5 percent of its present age, it would be a place full of chaos and disorder," said Rupert Croft, one of the researchers. "Our simulation showed that the early universe might be far from being just this. It might contain beautiful symmetrical galaxies, like the Milky Way."

The findings reveal a bit more about our early universe and show that it was far more structured than initially thought.

The findings are published in The Astrophysical Journal.

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