Galacticus is not a super hero; it’s a super model used to determine the formation and evolution of the galaxies. Developed by Andrew Benson, the George Ellery Hale Distinguished Scholar in Theoretical Astrophysics, it is one of the most advanced models of galaxy formation available.
Rather than building his model around observational data, Benson’s Galacticus relies on known laws of physics and the so-called N-body problem, which predicts the motions of celestial bodies that interact gravitationally in groups. Galacticus’ now an open- source model produces results as stunning 3-D videos.
Some 80% of the matter in the universe cannot be seen. This unseen matter is believed to be cold, dark matter, and it forms a halo around galaxies like our Milky Way. Dark matter affects how galaxies form. Galacticus solves the physics of galaxy formation inside a hierarchy of dark matter halos, which are linked in tree-like structures called merger trees. Galacticus is “fed” merger trees and then populates them with galaxies.
Benson, with colleagues, is also modeling the growth of black holes with highly energetic jets at their center within a hierarchically growing population of galaxies. Researchers believe the spin of the black hole drives the jets; the model computes this spin rate and the power of the jets.
Benson received his M.S. in physics at the University of Leicester and his Ph. D. in astrophysics from the University of Durham. Before coming to Carnegie in 2012, he was a research fellow at the University of Oxford and at Caltech. For more information see http://obs.carnegiescience.edu/users/abenson