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New virtual universe tops cosmic charts for accuracy, covers 13 billion years of evolution

This image provided by the Illustris Collaboration in May 2014 shows dark matter density overlaid with the gas velocity field in a simulation of the evolution of the universe since the Big Bang. The new computer simulation that reproduces features — such as galaxy distribution and composition — more accurately than previous ones is described in the Thursday, May 8, 2014 issue of the journal Nature. Previous attempts have broadly reproduced the web of galaxies, but failed to create mixed populations of galaxies or predict gas and metal content. The new model correctly predicts characteristics described in observational studies, and represents a considerable step forward in modeling galaxy formation. (AP Photo/Illustris Collaboration)

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This image provided by the Illustris Collaboration in May 2014 shows dark matter density overlaid with the gas velocity field in a simulation of the evolution of the universe since the Big Bang. The new computer simulation that reproduces features — such as galaxy distribution and composition — more accurately than previous ones is described in the Thursday, May 8, 2014 issue of the journal Nature. Previous attempts have broadly reproduced the web of galaxies, but failed to create mixed populations of galaxies or predict gas and metal content. The new model correctly predicts characteristics described in observational studies, and represents a considerable step forward in modeling galaxy formation. (AP Photo/Illustris Collaboration)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Scientists have come up with the best computer model yet of the universe.

This new virtual cosmos created by U.S., German and English researchers includes details never before achieved in a simulation. Called Illustris, the numerical-based model covers the 13 billion-year evolution of the universe beginning just 12 million years after the Big Bang, or creation. And it accurately depicts the distribution and composition of various types of galaxies.

Illustris was developed by a team led by astrophysicist Mark Vogelsberger of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It's described in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

The Illustris creators say it represents "a significant step forward in modeling galaxy formation." They attribute their success to advanced computer power.

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