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Professor Patrick Roche
University of Oxford
Visiting Professorship

Universal Simulations

Professor Rupert Croft visited the Astrophysics group at the University of Oxford as a Leverhulme Visiting Professor.

A super-high resolution cosmological simulation of the formation of a supermassive black hole at the centre of a galaxy. We use five levels of magnification to illustrate the dynamic range covered, from the four billion light year wide image of the Massive Black hydrodynamic simulation (background) to a disk of galactic gas swirling around the black hole (bottom left). The modelling combined two computational techniques, one involving sixty-five billion particles (the largest hydrodynamic simulation ever run), and the other adaptive mesh refinement, leading to a combined dynamic range (ratio of largest to smallest scale resolved) of ten million. Image credit: Y. Feng, R. Croft, T. Di Matteo (Carnegie Mellon), Y. Dubois, J. Devriendt & A. Slyz (Oxford).

The visit supported and enabled several productive collaborations on a range of current astrophysical topics, as well as facilitating engagement in the seminars, journal clubs and other activities with staff and students at Oxford. During his visit, Professor Croft contributed to some of the outreach events carried out at Oxford astrophysics, and gave a well-attended public lecture entitled Lost in Intergalactic Space.

Research conducted during the visit linked the observational studies conducted at Oxford with the computational simulations brought by Professor Croft, to further our understanding of the evolution of some of the oldest and furthest objects detected in the Universe to date. Examining the data from telescopes in the light of results from computer models provides additional clues to the way that galaxies form and grow within a few hundred million years of the Big Bang.

A second area of collaboration is in simulations of the evolution of supermassive black holes in the nuclei of galaxies. This work involves teams of academics, postdocs and students at Oxford and Carnegie Mellon University, which are developing models for the growth of black holes in galaxies and the impact of the jets and outflows associated with accretion of material on the galactic and intergalactic environments. One of the unique aspects of this work is that the modelling approaches employed by the teams at the two institutions are significantly different, allowing direct comparison and verification of the results. 

We expect that a substantial number of journal papers will be published as a result of these collaborations, and indeed the first have already appeared in the first months of 2013.

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