Early Water in the Universe

Recent work in the chemistry of molecular clouds in the early universe has found reactions that may create ancient water molecules that predate our Sun. For these to take place, however, particular conditions of molecular density and temperature must exist. Water molecules will be destroyed by either high temperatures or when densities are insufficient to shield them from UV rays. Water molecules will only be created and persist in areas of the universe in which these properties are suitable, and will do so at different rates depending on local conditions.

We present a combined a high resolution hydrodynamics simulation of the early universe closely coupled with this hydroxyl and water-producing chemistry model to determine how water molecules would be created and distributed in space and time in the early universe. By comparing these simulation results to astronomical observations we can verify both the hydrodynamic and chemical model of ancient water formation.

This work is enabled by the computational power of today’s supercomputers and simulation technology. The complexity of the chemistry model is significantly higher than that of simple hydrodynamics, making this a computationally intensive model. Vast difference in scale of the physics involved, from the cosmological scale of the universe through the stellar scale of stars and novae to the molecular scale of chemical reactions requires that adaptive mesh refinement (AMR) techniques be used to provide resolution that varies as demanded by the physics. The visualizations presented herein will show the dynamics of the simulation as it evolves over time.