AiS Challenge Team Interim

Team Number: 003

School Name: Albuquerque Academy

Area of Science: Astrophysics

Project Title: Simulating Solar System Formation Theories

Problem Definition:
The purpose of this project is to determine the initial conditions necessary to test the experimental solar system creation theory explained in our abstract. Since this is a somewhat broad theory, we intend to create a number of test scenarios on which to apply it and study the kinds of solar systems created by the initial conditions of each test scenario. With this information, we hope to define a general set of initial conditions that would make the theory applicable to our solar system.

Computational Solution:
The accepted method of solving theoretical astrophysics problems is the method of smooth particle hydrodynamics (SPH). This method interpolates the gases within the nebula to distinct particles with approximate masses and positions. The movement of the particles is then determined by the combined effects of thermal, chemical and gravitational forces. The techniques for finding each kind of force are well documented [2]. The entire system is then integrated over a time-step, which is often variable itself. We intend to apply our simulation as a gaseous cloud responding to shock waves. As such, the SPH method will be the most difficult and important part of our project. We will analyze the data with a 3D viewer developed in OpenGL and make some conclusions ourselves, but ideally, the end project will have a genetic algorithm that evaluates each set of initial conditions by their proximity to our solar system and thus finds the ideal initial conditions without human intervention.

Progress to Date:
Realizing that this project is somewhat large, we hope to start small and build on our successes. Currently, we are developing the viewer and attempting a simple distributed SPH program [3]. These programs are not currently functional. The current goal is to develop a SPH program that can pass the simple tests of gravity and energy presented in [1]. We aim to have this program working early next year, and will proceed to add as many additional physical considerations as are possible in the allotted time. Since our code is written in C++, we will improve upon or obsolete original classes as time goes on. We have divided work into two teams, one coding the viewer and the other coding the physics engine.

Expected Results:
We expect to develop a working SPH test center with a level of accuracy that is high enough for us to perform physical studies and draw conclusions from them. We hope to recreate a respectable number of previous SPH tests to prove the validity of our physics engine. A large number of solar system theories have been suggested, and we expect to see these play out in our simulations as a result of the initial conditions. We will be unable to effectively prove or disprove any one; the probability of each method's initial conditions will be our primary goal.

[4] Press, William et al. Numerical Recipes in C++: The Art of Scientific Computing Second Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge, 2002.

Team Members

Sponsoring Teacher(s)

Project Mentor(s)