Branching-out cosmological models
December 7, 2009 12:46 PM   Subscribe

In the realm of astrophysics, are there any charts, graphs, or models (or even physical examples of star clusters, etc) that somewhat resemble the branches of a tree?

Asking for a friend.

I've heard of fractal trees, aka Pythagoras trees, but what concept (if any) might they illustrate that relates specifically to astrophysics?

Are there any other charts, models, systems of geometry, etc that have branches or "root systems" that, when drawn out, look like a tree?

It can be a bit of a stretch, but I'm looking for a tree-like illustration of some astrophysical, inter-dimesional, or space-related concept.

Thank you!
posted by MattS to Science & Nature (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There's the 'mobile diagram' used to illustrate hierarchical multiple star systems. It's not much of a tree though.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 12:54 PM on December 7, 2009

If you include dendrites in the family of fractals, the structure of the universe could be said to take on a dendritic appearance at larger scales.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:54 PM on December 7, 2009

Galaxy merger trees are a good example, but most astronomers don't spend much time visualizing them, so there aren't too many pretty pictures. Here is an interesting 3D thingy.
posted by kiltedtaco at 1:00 PM on December 7, 2009

Some of the images of galaxy filaments in this paper look like a bit like trees. (Although don't be confused by the tree structures they use to do the rendering)
posted by demiurge at 3:37 PM on December 7, 2009

Cosmic rays hitting the earth's atmosphere are somewhat root like.
posted by kjs4 at 4:26 PM on December 7, 2009

The canonical answer to your question is merger trees, which you can get by doing a large scale cosmological simulations, among other methods.

However, as killedtaco says, they're of limited scientific utility, so you don't see too many of these in papers. I believe I've seen Figure 1 of Stewart et al. (2008) shown more than once in talks as an example of a visualization of these (click the PDF link).

If you really just want something pretty that looks sort of webby and clustery and branched (rather than actually tree-like) then, as demiurge suggests, just grab some images from The Millennium Run.
posted by caek at 5:14 PM on December 7, 2009

The classification scheme for spiral galaxies is Y-shaped. Do a Google image search on "galaxy types". Also check out the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram of star luminosity vs color.
posted by neuron at 11:18 AM on December 8, 2009

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