Our cosmic origins: building the Milky Way

Image © Diamond Light Source Ltd The first PanSTARRS telescope on Haleakala, Hawaii, USA. Image © Pan-STARRS 1 Consortium

A team lead by researchers from Durham University is working to create a computer simulation of the evolution of the Universe. This will help them understand how the Milky Way was formed and how it has changed from its origins to the present.
 
"The Milky Way is our cosmic habitat. Understanding its formation remains one of the great unanswered questions of modern cosmology," says Professor Carlos Frenk from Durham University. "Cosmologists are on the verge of discovering how our galaxy was built. Our ground-breaking simulations will demonstrate how our galaxy formed, how it changed over time and how it might look in the future."
 
The first building blocks of the Milky Way were laid down 13 billion years ago. Scientists are using computers to track the evolution of tiny density ripples, thought to be seeded by quantum fluctuations just after the Big Bang, to try to understand how the Milky Way was built and how it has evolved.
 
"We all want to know why we are here, what is special about our world, and what will happen in the future," continues Carlos. "We have an emerging picture about how the formation of galaxies like our own happened just after our Universe was formed. Our computer simulations are helping us to uncover how our Universe developed into what it is today."
 
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