Dr. Volker Springel Max-Planck-Institute for Astrophysics
Karl-Schwarzschild-Str. 1
85741 Garching 

Email:   volker@mpa-garching.mpg.de
Phone:  +49  89  30000 2238

Welcome to my personal homepage. I am a research group leader in numerical cosmology at the Max-Planck-Institute for Astrophysics in Garching, Germany. In the spring of 2010, I will move to a professorship in Theoretical Astrophysics at the University of Heidelberg, in the newly established Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS).

Since 2006, I am member of the Young Academy at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften - BBAW) and the German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina (Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina).

Curriculum Vitae  

Research Interests
Galaxy formation

Galaxy formation is the central subject of my research. Here the physics involved is an incredibly complicated blend of gravity, hydrodynamics, nuclear and atomic physics, as well as magnetohydrodynamics and radiation physics. The fundamental equations governing the forces between particles and fields in this low-energy regime are all well established, yet we are far from understanding how they produce the bewildering complexity of cosmic objects we see around us, like galaxies, globular star clusters, compact objects, or damped Lyman-alpha absorbers in the intergalactic medium, to name just a few. It is the goal of my research to make progress in untangling these physical processes, to separate the important from the unimportant, and to find some answers to the many questions that astrophysicists face in contemporary extragalactic astronomy.

Numerical Cosmology

I make extensive use of simulation techniques to study cosmic structure formation, both based on collisionless and hydrodynamic simulations. In order to allow use of the full power of modern supercomputers, I develop massive parallel simulation algorithms for distributed memory computers, and study new methods for discretizing the Euler and Navier-Stokes equations, for example on a moving mesh. One of my goals is to develop new calculational tools that allow multi-physics, multi-scale simulations on peta-scale supercomputers.

Dark matter and dark energy

Through numerical N-body simulations I seek clues to the nature of the dark matter and aim at advancing strategies for exploring the formation of our Galaxy, for searching for signals from dark matter annihilation, and for designing experiments for direct detection of dark matter.  Dark energy has emerged as one of the most important challenges for modern field theory and cosmology. The evidence for an accelerated expansion history of the universe is by now quite compelling, but the magnitude of the implied dark energy component cannot be naturally explained as a vacuum energy, in addition to raising a new coincidence problem: Why is the dark energy dominating just now? I work on carrying out high-resolution cosmological simulations of different dark energy cosmologies, including also non-standard theories of gravity and coupled dark matter-dark energy cosmologies, and to compare them to the standard ΛCDM model. The goal is to explore the viability of these theories and to inform strategies for successfully constraining dark energy through observations.

Large Projects
Millennium Simulation

The Millennium Run used more than 10 billion particles to trace the evolution of the matter distribution in a cubic region of the Universe over 2 billion light-years on a side. It kept busy the principal supercomputer at the Max Planck Society's Supercomputing Centre in Garching, Germany for more than a month. By applying sophisticated modelling techniques to the 25 Tbytes of stored output, we have been able to recreate evolutionary histories both for the 20 million or so galaxies which populate this enormous volume and for the supermassive black holes which occasionally power quasars at their hearts. By comparing such simulated data to large observational surveys, one can clarify the physical processes underlying the buildup of real galaxies and black holes.

Turn to the Millennium data release site for download of the publicly released data and for a list of papers that have used the simulation. Pictures and movies of the simulation are available as well. Meanwhile, we have also carried a further Millennium-II simulation, which features the same particle number but a 125 times better mass resolution.

Aquarius Project

The Aquarius Project is a large-scale collaborative programme of the Virgo Consortium (of which I am a member), similar in scope and scale to the Millennium Simulation project. At present, the principal set of Aquarius simulations contains six examples of an isolated halo similar in mass to that of the Milky Way. These are simulated in their full cosmological context (assuming the concordance ΛCDM cosmology) and at various resolutions up to about 200 million particles (counted within the radius where the enclosed density is 200 times the cosmic mean). One halo is also simulated at even higher resolution, resulting in almost 1.5 billion particles within this radius. These simulations are being used to understand the fine-scale structure predicted around the Milky Way by the standard structure formation model, and as the basis for simulation by various techniques of the growth of the stellar components of our Galaxy.
A selection of 10 of my most significant papers
  1. E pur si muove: Galiliean-invariant cosmological hydrodynamical simulations on a moving mesh
    Springel V., 2009, Mon. Not. of the R. Astron. Soc., in press   [preprint]

  2. The Aquarius Project: the subhalos of galactic halos
    Springel V., Wang J., Vogelsberger M., Ludlow A., Jenkins A., Helmi A., Fenk C. S., White S. D. M., 2008, Mon. Not. of the R. Astron. Soc., 391, 1685   [preprint]

  3. Prospects for detecting supersymmetric dark matter in the Galactic halo
    Springel V., White S. D. M., Fenk C. S., Navarro J. F., Jenkins A., Vogelsberger M., Wang J., Ludlow A., Helmi A., 2008, Nature, 456, 73   [preprint]

  4. Modelling feedback from stars and black holes in galaxy mergers
    Springel V., Di Matteo T., Hernquist L., 2005, Mon. Not. of the R. Astron. Soc., 361, 776   [preprint]

  5. The cosmological simulation code GADGET-2
    Springel V., 2005, Mon. Not. of the R. Astron. Soc., 364, 1105   [preprint]

  6. Simulations of the formation, evolution and clustering of galaxies and quasars
    Springel V., White S. D. M., Jenkins A., Frenk C. S., Yoshida N., Gao L., Navarro J., Thacker R., Croton D., Helly J., Peacock J. A., Cole S., Thomas P., Couchman H., Evrard A., Colberg J., Pearce F., 2005, Nature, 435, 629   [preprint]

  7. The history of star formation in a ΛCDM universe
    Springel V., Hernquist L., 2003, Mon. Not. of the R. Astron. Soc., 339, 312   [preprint]

  8. Cosmological SPH simulations: A hybrid multi-phase model for star formation
    Springel V., Hernquist L., 2003, Mon. Not. of the R. Astron. Soc., 339, 289   [preprint]

  9. Cosmological SPH simulations: The entropy equation
    Springel V., Hernquist L., 2002, Mon. Not. of the R. Astron. Soc., 333, 649   [preprint]

  10. Populating a cluster of galaxies - I. Results at z=0
    Springel V., White S. D. M., Tormen G., Kauffmann G., 2001, Mon. Not. of the R. Astron. Soc., 328, 726  [preprint]
Refereed and submitted publications

Popular science articles
  • Superrechner in der Kosmologie
    Springel V., 2009, Informatik Spektrum, 32, 449

  • Die Millennium Simulation – Mit einem Superrechner auf den Spuren der Galaxies
    Springel V., 2006, Sterne und Weltraum, 11, 30

  • Die Entstehung der Galaxien
    Springel V., 2003, Physik Journal, 6, 31

  • Fitting the universe on a supercomputer
    White S. D. M., Springel V., 1999, Computing in Science & Engineering, 1, 36
Thesis research
  • On the Formation and Evolution of Galaxies postscript (9.1 MB) Volker Springel, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, July 1999

  • Topology and Luminosity Function of the PSCz Redshift Survey postscript (974 KB) Volker Springel, University of Tübingen, October 1996. There are also gzip-compressed versions of three colour plates: figure C.1 (467 KB), figure C.2 & C.3 (222 KB) and figure C.4 (687 KB) 

  • I have written the parallel cosmological Tree/SPH code GADGET, which is publicly available.

  • I have also written a number of other codes as well, but they are only available to close collaborators. Among them are codes for parallel initial conditions generation of cosmological simulation and for the construction of equilibrium compound galaxy models. I have also authored the SUBFIND algorithm, both in serial and parallel versions. I have written various parallel FOF group finders, codes for constructing merger history trees, and for calculating semi-analytic galaxy formation models.

  • Recently, I have written the new finite-volume hydrodynamics code AREPO that is based on a moving unstructured grid that is defined as the Voronoi tessellation of a set of mesh-generating points. This allows Galilean-invariant simulations of Lagrangian nature, but at the same time retains the accurcay of traditional Eulerian approaches.