Scientists on 8 May 2014 created the first realistic virtual Universe using a computer simulation called Illustris. Astronomers led Dr Mark Vogelsberger of MIT/Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics create it.
Illustris tracked the development of the universe from 12 million years after the Big Bang up to the present, and identified more than 41,000 galaxies in a simulated space 350 million light years on each side.
The computer simulation enabled researchers to understand how galaxies, black holes and other cosmic phenomena evolved. It followed the complex development of normal and dark matter over 13 billion years, matching features observed in the real universe.
Over the past two decades, researchers have been attempting to build accurate computer simulations of the development of the universe using computer programmes.
The actual calculations took 3 months of run time. If the astronomers had used an average desktop computer, the calculations would have taken more than 2,000 years to complete.
Importantly, Illustris yielded a realistic mix of spiral galaxies like the Milky Way and football-shaped elliptical galaxies. It also recreated large-scale structures like galaxy clusters and the bubbles and voids of the cosmic web. On the small scale, it accurately recreated the chemistries of individual galaxies.
When: 8 May 2014