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Tuesday, 16 February 2010 01:35

You can help map the Milky Way galaxy

Thousands of volunteers with home computers from around the world are using Milkyway@Home to help create a three-dimensional model of the Milky Way galaxy. Would you like to join?

The Milkyway@Home website states, 'The goal of Milkyway@Home is to use the BOINC platform to harness volunteered computing resources in creating a highly accurate three dimensional model of the Milky Way galaxy using data gathered by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.'

As a joint effort of the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Physics, Applied Physics and Astronomy, both at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the project uses the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC) platform.

BOINC is an open-source software project that uses volunteer computing and grid computing.

It is widely recognized for its search program for signs of extraterrestrial life using the SETI@home project.

According to the ScienceDaily.com article 'Home Computers Around the World Unite to Map the Milky Way,' the Milkyway@Home project is the  ''¦ fastest computing project on the BOINC platform and perhaps the second fastest public distributed computing program ever in operation (just behind Folding@home).'

If you decide to join the project to map the Milky Way in 3D, each new volunteer will agree to provide a certain small percentage of their computer's operating power for making calculations to the Milkyway@Home project.

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Thus, your computer will be used to collect data on a very tiny section of the Milky Way galaxy.

The Milkyway@Home project came about with the help of Dr. Heidi Newberg, an associate professor within the Department of Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy at Rensselaer.

Dr. Newberg states, "I was a researcher sitting in my office with a very big computational problem to solve and very little personal computational power or time at my fingertips." [ScienceDaily]

She adds, Working with the MilkyWay@Home platform, I now have the opportunity to use a massive computational resource that I simply could not have as a single faculty researcher, working on a single research problem." [ScienceDaily]

Dr. Newberg developed the Milkyway@Home in collaboration with Malik Magdon-Ismail and Boleslaw Szymanski, professors in the Department of Computer Science at Rensselaer, along with several Rensselaer students.

Dr. Newberg states, "Scientists always need additional computing power. The massive amounts of data out there make it so that no amount of computational power is ever enough.' [ScienceDaily]

So, help out astronomers by donating a little bit of your computer to the Milkyway@Home project. You will be a part of a large astronomical project, one that will help us better understand the structure of our Milky Way galaxy, along with the overall shape and density of dark matter within the galaxy.


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