Computational Astrophysics

Computational Astrophysics

400,000 years after it began our Universe was hot, dense and almost featureless, yet today's world of galaxies is highly structured on all but the largest scales, showing both extraordinary diversity and surprising regularity. Large-scale computer simulations are the primary research tool for understanding how this complexity emerged from the remarkably simple initial conditions seen in microwave background maps.

MPA scientists are active in all aspects of such simulations, developing the numerical codes, deploying them on the largest available supercomputers, and using the results to interpret observational data on galaxies, galaxy clusters and large-scale structure.  We are interested in understanding how the nature of dark matter and dark energy may be reflected in the nonlinear structure of galaxies and their dark halos, as well as in modelling the astrophysical processes, radiative, chemical and dynamical, which shape galaxies and regulate their interaction with the intergalactic material which surrounds them.

Numerical approaches are applied at MPA to study the dynamics of dark matter from subatomic to cosmological scales, to investigate how star and black hole formation influences both the structure of individual galaxies and the systematic properties of the population, to interpret strong and weak gravitational lensing data in terms of galaxy and dark matter structure, to follow how the first stars and galaxies form and how they reionise the universe, and to clarify how the circum- and intergalactic gas which contains more than 80% of all cosmic baryons is structured by interaction with the galaxies.


Benedetta Ciardi
is interested in the formation of the first structures and the reionisation of the universe. She is the project leader at MPA for LOFAR and is particularly involved in its studies of the Epoch of Reionisation.

Thorsten Naab
simulates the formation of individual galaxies and their interstellar medium and is particularly interested in improving the numerical represention of the complex processes driving galaxy-scale feedback from star formation and AGN activity.

Fabian Schmidt
is interested in cosmic large-scale structure and how it can be used to test general relativity and probe the properties of dark matter, dark energy and inflationary structure generation.
Volker Springel

Volker Springel

works on new techniques in computational astrophysics and applies them to non-linear cosmic structure formation, the regulation of galaxy and star formation through feedback processes from supernovae and supermassive black holes, the intergalactic medium, and to different models of dark matter and dark energy.

Simon White
is interested in the detailed structure of the dark matter distribution, and in understanding how the physical processes regulating galaxy formation are reflected in the scaling relations, clustering and evolution of the galaxy population.


The Virgo Supercomputing Consortium is an international collaboration dedicated to high-end simulations of the formation of galaxies, galaxy clusters and the cosmic large-scale structure.

LOFAR is an international low-frequency radio-telescope array, based in the Netherlands, for which MPA built and operates a remote station about 40km north of the institute.

ATLAS-3D is a survey of kinematic and metallicity structures within a representative sample of nearby early-type galaxies. MPA provided the simulations used to interpret the observations.

SILCC is a collaborative project to carry out supercomputer simulations of star-formation and feedback processes within a representative region of the interstellar medium of a typical star-forming galaxy.

Galformod was an ERC-funded project to create new modelling tools that can simulate the evolution of the galaxy population in all viable cosmologies and under a wide variety of assumptions about the governing physical processes. These and a variety of databases, including the Millennium Run Observatory, are available from the Galformod site.

EAGLE is a project of the Virgo Consortium which carries out and interprets large hydrodynamic simulations of the formation of the galaxy population in cosmologically representative volumes.

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