Now You Can Help Scientists Understand the Universe

A new distributed computing project allows people around theworld to participate in cutting-edge cosmology research by sharing their unusedcomputing cycles.

Designed by an astronomy professor, Cosmology@Home issimilar to SETI@Home, the popularsoftware program that searches radio telescope data for evidence of extraterrestrial transmissions.

"When you run Cosmology@Home on your computer, it usespart of the computer's processingpower, disk space and network bandwidth," said project leader Benjamin D.Wandelt, who teaches astronomy and physics at the University of Illinois. "Our goal is to search for cosmologicalmodels that describe our universeand agree with available astronomical and particle physics data."

To accomplish this, participating computers will calculatepredictions made by millions of theoretical models with different parameters. The predictionsare then compared with data, which include fluctuations in the cosmic microwavebackground, large-scaledistributions of galaxies and the universe?sacceleration.

Cosmology@Home could also help design future cosmologicalobservations and prepare for the analysis offuture data sets, such as those to be collected by the Planck spacecraft, Wandelt said.

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