The intergalactic enigma of why stars form has been solved thanks to the most realistic supercomputer simulations of galaxies made to date.

“Feedback from stars, the collective effects from supernovae, radiation, heating, pushing on gas, and stellar winds can regulate the growth of galaxies and explain why galaxies have turned so little of the available supply of gas that they have into stars,” Hopkins said.

Galaxy simulations were tested on the Stampede supercomputer of the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), an Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment-allocated (XSEDE) resource funded by the National Science Foundation.

The initial results were published September of 2014 in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Hopkins’s work was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and a NASA Einstein Postdoctoral Fellowship.

The mystery begins in interstellar space, the vast space between stars. There dwell enormous clouds of molecules, mainly hydrogen, with the mass of thousands or even millions of Suns. These molecular gas clouds condense and give birth to stars.

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