Supercomputers Unravel the Starburst Puzzle

French astrophysicists throw galaxies together and watch what happens.

French scientists using the Curie supercomputer at CEA (France’s alternative energy commission) and the SuperMUC supercomputer in Leibzig-Garching, Germany, have successfully modeled the collision of two galaxies in a way that sheds light on the mysterious phenomenon known as a starburst.
Stars are formed when gases become dense enough to collapse under gravitational forces. The collision of two galaxies, and the subsequent merging of galactic gases, often causes the formation of stars, which astrophysicists observe through the associated emission of energy known as a starburst.
One puzzle that has perplexed scientists in the past is that the turbulence accompanying a galactic collision was considered too violent to allow the gases to condense. The French research team, which included scientists from CEA and the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and led by Florent Renaud, revealed that the collision sent the gases into a compressive mode that minimized vortex effects and allowed for the formation of stars.