• Question: What is your favorite thing about studying space on a computer?

    Asked by Sid to Miriam on 8 Nov 2018.
    • Photo: Miriam Hogg

      Miriam Hogg answered on 8 Nov 2018:

      I think its the freedom!

      When you use a computer to model space you can do whatever you like! you can put the planets however far from its star you want, speed it up to watch the orbits, add mass to see what happens, crash it into another planet! Whatever you can think of you can do on a computer.

      When you observe real stars and planets you get the real information about them but only at that time. If you were to look at a star with a planet at 1Au (the distance from the Earth to the Sun) you would have to watch that planet for a whole year to watch one orbit. If you modelled it on a computer you could speed up time and watch it orbit for thousands of years in minutes.

      You do have to be careful about doing realistic models and making sure you include all the maths and physics you need, or you’ll get the wrong things happening. Modelling helps make predictions and helps us see how real systems might evolve on a timescale we would never be able to observe in real ones!