Galaxies feed themselves with cosmic swirly straws

Credit: JPL

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has worked up a video that shows the creation of a galaxy, giving us a detailed simulation of an event that took place within the first two billion years of the existence of the Universe. The video's creation was aided by supercomputers which helped in simulating all of the gravitational forces at work.

When the video simulation was complete, scientists discovered that forming galaxies seem to funnel cold gasses into their cores by way of massive spiraling filaments which look a lot like a galactic-scale version of swirly straws. And, though astronomers didn't know exactly what they looked like, it was these swirly straws that the scientists at JPL were looking for. They're part of a new theory concerning the formation of galaxies. 

The old theory went something like this: gasses built up speed and heat, then explode and finally settle into the core of a galaxy. The new theory works off a "cold-mode" hypothesis, whereby non-heated gasses are funneled directly into the core of a galaxy, rather than settling there after becoming more energetic. The cold-mode theory seems to fit reality better than its predecessor, answering questions about the outer reaches of galaxies and the like. And by creating a model of what the new model should look like, scientists can then turn to their telescopes and see if real life verifies their new theory. If that happens, the cold-mode galactic model just might bring us all a little closer to understanding the ways of the Universe.

The creation of the simulated video was no mean feat, by the way. It took hundreds of computer processors, working for months on end, to put together. Check it out below, in all its simulated galactic glory.


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