Monday, March 3, 2014- Astronomer Chalence Safranek-Shrader simulates the first stars in the cosmic dark ages 13 billion years ago.

30Mar

The cosmic dark ages is the name for an epoch in history 13 billion years ago, when stars did not yet exist.  UT Austin theoretical astrophysicist Chalence Safranek-Shrader simulates the first stars in the cosmic dark ages.  His tools include pen and paper, laptops, and the super computer "Stampede" at the Texas Advanced Commuting Center (TACC).  Chalence's cosmological simulations are special because they enforce cosmological initial conditions of the Universe.  The approach is to treat little lightyear-sized parcels of the universe as chunks of discretized gas.  The specific technique Chalence prefers is called Adaptive Mesh Refinement, which can follow these discretized parcels of gas, with all the known laws of physics in a huge differential equation.  The super computer can take up to months to crunch all the numbers, generating terabytes of data.  Chalence is finding out behavior of the second generation of stars that formed the bulk of the heavy elements beyond Hydrogen and Helium, and how that led to the end of the cosmic dark ages.  There is not much hope to observe the first stars with a telescope.  However, the next generation James Webb Space Telescope, could detect clusters of first stars, their supernovae, or the first galaxies.

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