Galaxy Formation – 27th March 2003

Lisa Wright gave us an informative and well-balanced talk with the title Galaxy Formation: Painting by Numbers, illustrated using computer animations and a practical demonstration using a lycra sheet, a large steel ball bearing and various other less weighty spheres. She gave us an insight into some of the factors that influenced the formation of galaxies in the early universe. Computer simulation can be used to run experiments in galaxy formation that would take billions of years if done for real. The results of a computer simulation can be compared with observations of the real Universe to give an idea of the probable accuracy of the model. Early simulations tended to produce galaxies less varied and smaller than those observed in the real Universe. Factors such as the presence and distribution of dark matter, the density of dust and gas, and the resultant rate of star formation all affect the way galaxies form and involve. Her most recent computer simulations produce results that appear much more like the real Universe, even producing some spiral galaxies (which were missing from earlier results).

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