The First Billion Years: a Petascale Universe of Galaxies and Quasars

Tiziana Di Matteo, Carnegie Mellon University

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The Hubble Deep/Ultra Deep fields are iconic, and almost certainly the most studied space telescope observations. Upcoming observations from an enormous range of current and planned instruments, from the successor to Hubble, The James Webb Telescope, to the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), to the WFIRST Satellite will also have the opportunity to reach galaxies and black holes at the same extreme magnitudes or deeper, but over unprecedentedly wide fields. This will open up the study of the highest redshift galaxies and quasars to the type of statistical studies that have made modern cosmology a precision science. This project aims to compute theoretical predictions to make contact with current and upcoming observations of the high-redshift universe using the Blue Waters supercomputer.

The project will extend the BlueTides simulation, with an unprecedented volume and resolution, to cover the evolution of the first billion years of cosmic history. The goal is to significantly increase the scientific impact of this calculation to the community. Importantly, the project will attempt to make contact with observations of quasars, which have not been discovered at redshift greater than 7 (while the simulation now has run to redshift equal 8). In addition the project will be using BlueTides as a path-finder for developing methods/calculations for future cosmological hydrodynamical simulations of galaxy formation with volumes and resolutions suitable for creating mocks for next generation surveys. The impact of the proposed work will extend way beyond BlueTides. Large hydrodynamical simulations will be more and more useful in all stages of major observational projects in astrophysics and cosmology. For example, a simulation that covers a significant fraction of the entire observable universe with BlueTides resolution and runs to the present day (an epoch which is fully dominated by the hydrodynamic computations) will be needed for LSST.

The project will establish a theoretical framework for understanding the role of galaxies in the evolution of the universe at high redshifts. Different communities of scientists are interested in the behavior history of quasars and galaxy assembly, including cosmologists, the galaxy evolution community and high energy astrophysicists, so the results would have a wide impact across many different scientific communities.

Additionally, the image and catalog generation, and database techniques developed by the project will strengthen the project already on-going synergistic activities with computer science, machine learning and statistics. Furthermore, the project will have a strong education component by involving undergraduate and graduate students in this research. Finally, the project propose to perform outreach using the visualization and interactive Gigapan software.


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