Astronomers face a unique problem. While scientists from most fields can conduct experiments—particle physicists build massive particle colliders to test their theories of subatomic material, and microbiologists probe the properties of microbes on petri dishes—astronomers cannot conduct experiments with the stars and planets. Even the most advanced telescopes can provide only snapshots of the cosmos, and very little changes during our lifetimes.
Yet many questions remain, such as how the Milky Way formed, what dark matter is and the role of supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies. In an attempt to edge closer to answering these unsolved mysteries, some scientists have embarked on ambitious projects: creating virtual universes.
Image source: Illustris