An algorithm that helps engineers design better helicopters may help astronomers more precisely envision the formation of planets and galaxies. The new model understands how black holes, planets, and galaxies emerge from the vortex-rich environments of space. Researchers drew inspiration from a mechanical engineering algorithm that shows how air flows past a helicopter’s rotor blades.

The new algorithm, Maelstrom3D, focuses on the interplay of vortices in a less combustible cosmic environment, and might have other applications beyond astronomy.