You can now explore the universe virtually – over 13.8 billion years


It is just a dream to explore the universe by sailing between galaxies and sailing through vast regions of the cosmos in a pleasantly short time.

But now an international research group has found a way to make this dream come true. A new virtual universe allows anyone to rush through the universe in an unprecedented virtual environment.

Fly through the universe showing the Uchuu model in this video provided by the Center for Computational Astrophysics (CfCA).

Uchuu! Bless you!

Uchuu (宇宙) – which is translated from Japanese as “space”, is both the largest and most realistic simulation of the large-scale universe ever produced.

Dark matter distribution simulated by Uchuu. Image via

In a frame of 9.63 billion light years per side, this virtual universe contains 2.1 trillion particles. Each side of this cube-shaped model extends three-quarters of the distance from Earth to the most distant galaxies.

“By combining these simulations, we can follow the evolution of dark matter halos and subhalos, ranging from dwarf galaxies to massive galaxy clusters over an unprecedented volume,” explain researchers in Monthly notices from the Royal Astronomical Society.

Viewers looking to enlarge their home – or planets – may be disappointed to learn that Uchuu is limited in detail to individual galaxies.

In addition to its sheer size and intricate details, Uchuu is also unique in simulating the cosmos over 13.8 billion years – from the Big Bang to our modern times.

“Uchuu is like a time machine: we can stop forwards, backwards and in time, we can ‘zoom in’ or ‘zoom out’ on a single galaxy in order to visualize a whole bunch, we can see what is really going on at any point in time every place in the universe from its beginnings to the present, an essential tool to study the cosmos, ”explains Julia Ereza, a doctoral student at IAA-CSIC who has experience studying the large-scale structure of the universe with Uchuu.

Geek Alert!

Uchuu was created using the most powerful supercomputer for astronomy – ATERUI II.

The Aterui-2 supercomputer.  Image via NAOJ
The Aterui-2 supercomputer. Image via NAOJ

This massively parallel Cray XC50 computer system uses 1005 nodes, more than 40,000 cores and 20 Intel Xeon Gold 6148 processors (2.4 GHz each). The entire system has 385 terabytes of RAM, 6.5 petabytes of hard disk space and runs at peak performance over three petaflops (three billion million floating point operations per second).

“With ATERUI, we were only able to simulate a fraction of the actual number of stars in a galaxy. In contrast, ATERUI II can compute motion for all hundreds of billions of stars, ”reports NAOJ.

Despite this tremendous computing power, this simulation still took a year to create this virtual universe. Completion of the model required 20 million supercomputer hours that produced three petabytes of information – the equivalent of 3,000 laptops with one terabyte of memory each, or almost 900 billion high-resolution images taken with a smartphone.

“Recently, a new type of astronomy called ‘simulation astronomy’ that uses computers has emerged. With the computing power of supercomputers, we are now able to numerically solve equations that cannot be solved analytically. ATERUI II aims to depict a more realistic universe through simulations that use its high computing speed, ”describes NAOJ.

If you want to explore Uchuu in more detail, you can do so at

As more large sky surveys go online in the coming years, Uchuu and similar programs will bring these large amounts of data from space to Earth.

This article was originally published on The Cosmic Companion by James Maynard, the founder and editor of The Cosmic Companion. Originally from New England, he became a desert rat in Tucson, where he lives with his lovely wife Nicole and Max the Cat. You can read the original article here.


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