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What the galaxy will look like billions of years from now

What’s the fate of our sun, when in 5 billion years from now our Milky Way will clash with the Andromeda Galaxy? Leiden astronomers have been working on calculations on this collision. They recently gave a visual sneak preview on a big tech conference.

The GPU Technology Conference is the yearly event for developers of GPU’s – processors used in video tasks. The 2017 edition was held in Silicon Valley in March. During the keynote lecture, 8,000 visitors were shown a special intermezzo.

Stars leaving galaxies

Steven Jones, CEO of computer hardware company NVIDIA, showed a simulation made by Leiden astronomers Simon Portegies Zwart and Jeroen Bédorf. It shows how the Andromeda Galaxy and the Milky Way will close in on each other in the coming years. It is expected that they will clash in 5.3 billion years from now, after which huge numbers of stars will be catapulted frorm the newly merged galaxy. The fate of our own sun  remains highly uncertain.

10 years of GPU’s

Leiden astronomers have been using GPU’s for over 10 years, Portegies Zwart explains. They were amongst the first to perform scientific calculations on GPU’s. The contact with NVIDIA started in 2014, when a team led by Portegies Zwart was nominated for fastest computer calculations. ‘Unfortunately, we didn’t win, but our contact with NVIDIA has been excellent ever since.’