Portraits of a Universe in Motion

GRAVITAS is an ongoing project to visualize and animate the dynamics of galaxies using supercomputer simulations. Galaxies are complex dynamical objects driven by the mutual gravitational forces between their stars and invisible dark matter. Gravity drives the interactions and mergers of galaxies leading to beautiful transient forms: spirals, tails, shells and ripples. Astronomical images reveal these structures but unfortunately they represent a single snapshot of a long and complex evolution. The vast size of galaxies implies that significant changes in morphology take hundreds of millions of years. We tiny humans constrained by a century-long lifespan have no hope of directly witnessing this fantastic evolution. A main goal of this project is to use realistic simulations to illustrate these slow and majestic dynamical processes on an accessible timescale and so breathe life into the snapshots of galaxies.

GRAVITAS is also a synthesis of science and the arts. Long animation sequences of interacting galaxies and structure formation are set to the original music of John Farah inspired by these animations, creating a compelling synthesis of sound, motion, vast dimensions and timescales and Newton’s universal laws of gravity and motion.

Our most popular topics on Galaxydynamics.org