This visualization of a computer simulation showcases the ‘cosmic web’, the large scale structure of the universe. Each bright knot is an entire galaxy, while the purple filaments show where material exists between the galaxies. To the human eye, only the galaxies would be visible, and this visualization allows us to see the strands of material connecting the galaxies and forming the cosmic web.
This visualization is based on a scientific simulation of the growth of structure in the universe. The matter, dark matter, and dark energy in a region of the universe are followed from very early times of the universe through to the present day using the equations of gravity, hydrodynamics, and cosmology. The normal matter has been clipped to show only the densest regions, which are the galaxies, and is shown in white. The dark matter is shown in purple. The size of the simulation is a cube with a side length of 134 megaparsecs (437 million light-years).
The camera choreography is a straight line path through the simulation. The camera accelerates from a standstill at the start, flies at a constant speed, and then decelerates to a stop at the end. The “cruising speed” of the camera is 250,000 parsecs per frame, or about 20 million light-years per second (at 24 frames per second). That’s more than 600 trillion times the speed of light. Buckle your seatbelts.
The simulation is periodic, and the camera flies through it several times. A skew angle is used to avoid showing the same structures on each fly through. The camera path (after accelerating to full speed) does repeat every 2000 frames. Hence, one can get an infinite loop by showing the frames 100 – 2099 over and over.
Visualization: Frank Summers, Space Telescope Science Institute
Simulation: Martin White and Lars Hernquist, Harvard University