Philip Hopkins, California Institute of Technology
Astronomers have now discovered planets around distant stars, the relics of the “first generation” of stars in the Universe, and the light from the first galaxies when the Universe was but a fraction of its present age. However, a human life is infinitesimally small compared to the cosmic time scales over which these systems evolved, so we see only snapshots, instants in time. To link them together and understand how our Universe evolved, we rely on theoretical models and massive computational simulations. Fortunately for us, advances in computing power mean that this is possible ‐‐ and we are now beginning to understand the birth and death of galaxies, stars, and planets. What this has shown, in stark contrast to our beliefs from the last century, is that the Universe is a violent place, that only appears calm because of our brief history of observations. I will describe how galaxies collide, stars explode, planets are born and launched out of solar systems, and stardust is ejected from some galaxies and ‘stolen’ by others. Together this forms the background of our understanding of how we arrived at this unique moment in time.