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New math method improves study of evolution of solar system

india Updated: Apr 13, 2013 17:23 IST
solar system


In order to improve a simulation designed to study the evolution of the solar system through time, numerical mathematical methods have been developed at the Computing Faculty of the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU).

Specifically, the methods proposed enable the simulation calculations to be done faster and more accurately.

The methodology developed at the UPV/EHU’s Computing Faculty is a clear example of interdisciplinarity and collaboration.

Indeed, mathematicians, computer scientists, physicists and astronomers have been working together on this task, and even though a large proportion of the work was done at the UPV/EHU, the Universities of Valencia and Castellon and the Paris Observatory were also involved.

The mathematician Ander Murua has explained how the collaboration took place.

“At the Paris Observatory there is a well-known astronomer by the name of Jacques Laskar who is doing research into the evolution of the solar system,” Murua said.

“Among other things, Laskar has developed precise mathematical models of the solar system and by using numerical methods in powerful computers, he has made calculations to find out how the solar system has evolved over millions of years.

“When the astronomical information obtained by Laskar by means of these calculations and simulations is compared with geological data, it is possible to know how changes in the Earth’s orbit are related to glaciations and warming, and this can help to predict what could happen in the future. Both the mathematical model of the solar system and the numerical methods used are important for carrying out these simulations,” Murua added.

Laskar’s team did their latest simulation about three years ago and went back 250 million years. It took the computers a whole year to do it.

Nevertheless, according to Laskar, even though the results obtained for the last 50 million years are reliable, the ones further back lose reliability because of the chaotic behavior of the system.

The research has been published in the scientific journal Applied Numerical Mathematics.