The European Research Council (ERC) has funded the Project EXAGAL „Hydrodynamical Simulations of Galaxy Formation at the Peta- and Exascale“ as a Starting-Grant within the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration, for a period of 60 months, starting in February 2013. The project is led by principal investigator Volker Springel, and is hosted at the HITS.

Project at a glance

Numerical simulations of galaxy formation provide a powerful technique for calculating the non-linear evolution of cosmic structure formation. In fact, they have played an instrumental role in establishing the current standard cosmological model known as ΛCDM. However, unlocking the predictive power of current petaflop and future exaflop computing platforms requires a targeted effort in developing new numerical methods that excel in accuracy, parallel scalability, and in physical fidelity to the processes relevant in galaxy formation.

A new moving-mesh technique for hydrodynamics recently developed and implemented by us in the AREPO code provides a significant opportunity for a paradigm shift in cosmological simulations of structure formation, replacing the established smoothed particle hydrodynamics technique with a much more accurate and flexible approach. Building on the first successes with this method, this ERC project pursues a comprehensive research program to apply this novel numerical framework in a new generation of hydrodynamical simulations of galaxy formation that aim to greatly expand the physical complexity and dynamic range of theoretical galaxy formation models.

In particular, we aim to perform the first simulations of individual galaxies with several tens of billion hydrodynamical resolution elements and full adaptivity, allowing us to resolve the interstellar medium in global models of galaxies with an unprecedented combination of spatial resolution and volume. We will simultaneously and self-consistently follow the radiation field in galaxies down to very small scales, something that has not been attempted before. Through cosmological simulations of galaxy formation in representative regions of the Universe, we will shed light on the connection between galaxy formation and the large-scale distribution of gas in the Universe, and on the many facets of feedback processes that regulate galactic star formation, such as energy input from evolving and dying stars or from accreting supermassive black holes.

Über das HITS

Das Heidelberger Institut für Theoretische Studien (HITS) wurde 2010 von dem Physiker und SAP-Mitgründer Klaus Tschira (1940-2015) und der Klaus Tschira Stiftung als private, gemeinnützige Forschungseinrichtung ins Leben gerufen. Das HITS betreibt Grundlagenforschung in den Naturwissenschaften, der Mathematik und der Informatik. Dabei werden große, komplexe Datenmengen verarbeitet, strukturiert und analysiert und computergestützte Methoden und Software entwickelt. Die Forschungsfelder reichen von der Molekularbiologie bis zur Astrophysik. Die HITS Stiftung, eine Tochter der Klaus Tschira Stiftung, stellt die Grundfinanzierung der HITS gGmbH auf Dauer sicher. Die Mittel dafür erhält sie von der Klaus Tschira Stiftung. Gesellschafter des HITS sind neben der HITS Stiftung die Universität Heidelberg und das Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT). Das HITS arbeitet außerdem mit weiteren Universitäten und Forschungsinstituten sowie mit industriellen Partnern zusammen. Die wichtigsten externen Mittelgeber sind das Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF), die Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) und die Europäische Union.

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