История времени: суперкомпьютер вычислил начало Вселенной

Компьютерные симуляции, проведенные в Суперкомпьютерном центре Сан-Диего, Калифорния, а также в других научных центрах, позволили восстановить историю раннего этапа нашей Вселенной

Профессор Майкл Норман из лаборатории вычислительной астрофизики Университета Калифорнии в Сан-Диего опубликовал обзор компьютерных симуляций эволюции ранней Вселенной, выполненной в суперкомпьютерном центре Сан Диего за последние годы. Эта работа позволяет восстановить один из самых загадочных этапов мироздания — время, когда из облака горячего газа наша Вселенная превратилась в то, что мы видим сейчас.

О том, как начиналась Вселенная, многие знают из замечательной книги Стивена Хокинга «Краткая история времени». После Большого взрыва мир представлял собой плотное и горячее месиво из всевозможных элементарных частиц. Через 380 000 лет эта материя остыла настолько, что электроны соединились с протонами, образовав атомы водорода. Это событие называется «рекомбинацией». Мир, в котором до этого любое электромагнитное излучение тотчас же поглощалось, внезапно стал прозрачным для света. Однако ничего особенно интересного в нем рассмотреть было нельзя — за исключением отсветов того самого горячего газа, испущенных за мгновения до рекомбинации. Астрономы и сейчас могут регистрировать эти отсветы, и они образуют так называемое «реликтовое излучение», несущее информацию о раннем детстве Вселенной.

Однако после рекомбинации мироздание продолжало развиваться. Газ начал собираться в сгустки под действием гравитации, пока наконец из него не сформировались первые звезды — огромные и очень яркие. Стали образовываться первые галактики. Их свет — в основном ультрафиолетовое излучение — вновь начал отрывать электроны от протонов. Этот процесс называется «реионизацией».

Период развития Вселенной от образования самых первых звезд до «реионизации» получил в космологии поэтичное название «космический рассвет» — Cosmic Dawn. К концу этого миллиарда лет звездное небо уже выглядело в целом очень похоже на то, что мы видим сейчас у себя над головами.

К сожалению, наблюдать этот этап развития космоса астрономам пока не под силу. Они могут регистрировать и изучать реликтовое излучение, несущее информацию о Вселенной моложе 380 000 лет, а также излучение самых дальних галактик — космический телескоп Hubble видит их в тот момент времени, когда Вселенная была чуть старше миллиарда лет, то есть в самом конце эры «космического рассвета. Однако о том, что происходило в этом самом интересном промежутке — когда небо впервые озарилось светом звезд — астрономические наблюдения пока ничего сообщить не могут, и космологи полагаются только на космические симуляции.

Взрослеть вместе с компьютерами

Чтобы воссоздать ранние этапы истории Вселенной, в конце 1990-х годов была разработана компьютерная программа Enzo — открытый код, в дальнейшем усовершенствованный тысячами исследователей и любителей-энтузиастов.

Делает она приблизительно вот что: берет кубический объем пространства, заполненный газом, и решает уравнения, определяющие, как этот газ себя поведет. Тогда, в 1990-х годах, быстродействие компьютеров позволяло решить подобные задачи лишь весьма приблизительно. Однако с конца 1990-х годов действовал «Закон Мура для суперкомпьютеров»: быстродействие вычислительных машин удваивалось каждые 18 месяцев. Расчет показывает, что за 18 лет с момента публикации первых программ Enzo расчеты должны были ускориться в 4000 раз. На деле, по оценкам профессора Нормана, развитие шло чуть быстрее, чем предполагает закон Мура, и ускорение составило около 10 000 раз. Тем временем развивалось и само программное обеспечение Enzo. В результате к настоящему моменту удалось рассчитать все события, приведшие к образованию нашей Вселенной, с беспрецедентной точностью.

Профессор Норман демонстрирует возможности метода, предлагая сравнить реальное изображение удаленной галактики, полученное с помощью телескопа Hubble, с компьютерным предсказанием, как должна была бы выглядеть эта галактика — вернее, соответствующий объем газа, на протяжении миллиарда лет эволюционировавший по законам физики. Картинки практически идентичны с единственным исключением: компьютерная симуляция богаче деталями, а полученное с телескопа изображение более размыто (все же речь идет об объекте, имеющим показатель красного смещения z=15, то есть свет его был испущен в тот момент, когда Вселенная была в 15 раз меньше, чем сейчас).

Карликовые галактики и черные дыры

Компьютерная симуляция помогла восстановить многие интересные черты эволюции Вселенной. Первоначально облака водорода сгустились и дали начало одиночным, очень массивным (в сотни раз тяжелее Солнца) и ярким, звездам. Внутри таких звезд сформировались первые тяжелые элементы, литий и бериллий. Однако звезды-гиганты жили недолго, и в момент их смерти родились — и распространились по космосу — все химические элементы вплоть до железа. Эти элементы участвовали в образовании нового поколения звезд.

Профессор Норман поясняет, что сверхмассивные звезды первого поколения могут образовываться до сих пор в небольших галактиках, где есть достаточно темной материи, чтобы охладить облака гелия и водорода. Однако в условиях, когда газы ионизируются светом уже существующих звезд, результатом эволюции такого облака будет не рождение звезд, а гравитационный коллапс в сверхмассивную черную дыру.

Существование металлических примесей позволяет сформировать звезды, которые будут гораздо мельче, но многочисленней, чем звезды первого поколения. На этом этапе возникают объекты, которые уже можно назвать галактиками — сгустки темной материи, звезд и обогащенного металлами газа. Эти галактики меньше тех, что мы наблюдаем сейчас: интенсивное излучение молодых звезд рассеивает газ из районов активного звездообразования. Именно излучение таких галактик и доводит до конца процесс «реионизации» — на этом эру «космического рассвета» можно считать завершенной. О том, что случилось дальше, мы уже можем узнать, просто наблюдая в телескопы далекие окраины Вселенной.

Каков практический смысл подобных исследований? По словам профессора Нормана, главная их цель — утоление научного любопытства. Другая цель — проверка и уточнение законов физики: сравнение результатов компьютерной симуляции и наблюдаемых объектов во Вселенной позволяет делать заключения о том, насколько точны предпосылки, лежащие в основании моделей. Симуляции также позволят объяснить и интерпретировать будущие наблюдения астрономов.

Наконец, есть и третий аргумент: подобные исследования подталкивают как развитие компьютерной техники, так и разработку нового ПО. Вспомним, что развитие интернета началось с создания сети ARPANET, предназначенной исключительно для нужд научного исследования. К каким будущим технологическим прорывам приведут усилия людей, занимающимися компьютерной симуляцией ранней Вселенной, пока предсказать невозможно. Очевидно лишь, что любопытство ученых лежит в основе всего развития технологий, и такая ситуация сохранится в будущем.

Источник: forbes.ru

Post Author: admin

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