From Large to Small: The history of the Cosmos

20 June 2017

A team of SIfA members, led by Prof. Geraint Lewis and Prof. Joss Bland-Hawthorn, has been awarded the HPC Artemis Grand Challenge for massive computation. The project, entitled "Astrophysics Grand Challenge: From Large to Small", aims to shed light on how galaxies come into being.

Snapshot from the Millennium Simulation
Snapshot from the Millennium Simulation

Large astronomical surveys are pushing the boundaries of our knowledge of the Universe. These observations have revealed something both surprising and confusing: The Universe seems to have a dual nature, with a bright and a dark side. Its bright side, consisting of what we can observe directly, the so-called baryonic matter, makes up for roughly 5 per cent of its mass and energy content, leaving the rest hidden in the dark. The dynamics of the Cosmos on the large scales are thus dominated by two mysterious components: Dark Matter and Dark Energy. Yet, baryonic matter is the stuff out of which stars are born, planets are formed, and life as we know it is made possible. But how do the dark components of the Universe shape its bright side? To solve this puzzle, observations need to be complemented by sophisticated numerical simulations.

The novel project proposed by Prof. Lewis will approach this question from two different but complementary fronts. On cosmological scales, Prof. Lewis and his PhD students, Eromanga Adermann, Nik Iwanus and Andrew Watts, will focus on the processes that lead to the formation of large-scale structure -- within which galaxies form and `live'--, incorporating standard as well as non-standard physics and interactions between ordinary (baryonic) matter and the dark components. On small scales,Prof Joss Bland-Hawthorn, Dr Thorsten Tepper Garcia and PhD student Asger Gronnow will address how individual galaxies like our own Milky Way form and grow through the accretion of smaller systems and gas from intergalactic space. The ultimate goal is to understand how galaxy properties are tied to their large-scale environment.

Owing to the innovation and demanding computational requirements of the project, the selection panel has allocated to the SIfA team the equivalent of 12 million core hours over a period of four years, starting from September 2017. This grant is of a significant value, and it will unquestionably strengthen the SIfA research program.

Contact: Prof Geraint Lewis

Phone: +61 2 9351 5184

Email: 223102245e0d0c640913465e290e042d2a575740775c0d31775227