For a long time, scientists have been questioning how exactly a spiral galaxy like the Milky Way is formed. Now, thanks to super computers and math, they have an idea of at least one of the possibilities. The calculations used to form this computer model were first published in 2010, in an issue of the journal Nature. That, however, was only step one. Knowing the appropriate calculations is a far cry from having a computer calculate them.
In order to acually run the model, researches needed not one, but two super computers, the Cray XT5 “Monte Rosa” at Zurich’s Swiss National Supercomputing Center, and NASA’s Advanced Supercomputer Division’s “Pleiades.” Because the model contains (and individually models) something like 790 solar masses, the program brought even these behemoths to their knees. The simulation took, in total, 8 months. If it had been done on your average PC, however, it would have taken over 500 years. All in all, the simulation provides an interesting take on how the formation of a spiral disc galaxy is possible and also makes predictions about aspects of the Milky Way that have yet to be discovered. Pretty wild stuff.