Researchers have simulated a virtual universe and you can download it for free

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If you’ve ever wanted to explore the entire universe from the comfort of your computer, now’s your chance. An international team has created the largest and most realistic virtual universe ever created called Uchu (meaning “outer space” in Japanese), simulating 2.1 trillion particles in a computational cube that measures 9.63 billion on each side. Light-year wide. .

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The simulation was created using the supercomputer ATERUI II, which is dedicated to astronomy projects. The supercomputer based in Iwate, Japan has a peak performance of over 3 Pflops, but even with all this power it still took a full year to crunch all the data and create simulations.

Uchuu Simulation, the most detailed simulation of the universe ever.
Uchuu Simulation, the most detailed simulation of the universe ever. Simulation: Tomoaki Ishiyama; Visualization: Hirotaka Nakayama; 4D2U Project, NAOJ

“To produce Uchu we have used … all 40,200 processors (CPU cores) are exclusively available for 48 hours every month,” said Tomoki Ishiyama, an associate professor at Chiba University who developed the code for the project. “Twenty million supercomputer hours were consumed, and 3 petabytes of data were generated, the equivalent of 894,784,853 pictures from a 12-megapixel cell phone.”


The simulation looks at dark matter halos which are huge-scale structures that can tell us about the formation of galaxies and the early universe. The large-scale nature of the simulation makes it a valuable tool for studying how the universe evolved over time, as it shows very distant regions that represent early stages in the life of the universe.

“Uchu is like a time machine,” Julia F. Areza, a Ph.D. he said. student at the Instituto Astrofísica Andalucía in Spain which uses Uchuu. “We can move forward, backward, and stop in time, we can ‘zoom in’ on a single galaxy or ‘zoom out’ to visualize the whole cluster, we can see exactly every moment and universe.” being an essential tool for studying the universe, from its earliest days to the present.”

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And yes, should you want to experience the wonder of exploring the entire (virtual) universe for yourself, you can, as the team has made the entire simulation available for free download for anyone who wants it. Fair warning though – even compressed, the simulation takes over 100 terabytes, so you’ll need to provide some serious hard drive space.

To know more about downloading the simulation and interacting with it, you can visit Uchuu Simulation Website and related to GitHub Pages. The group plans to release more data in the future, including catalogs and gravitational lensing maps of virtual galaxies.

The research is published in the journal Monthly Notice of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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