The Einstein@home project has found a rare astronomical object with the help of thousands of users processing gravitational wave data.
Nature.com reported that Chris and Helen Colvin from Iowa were telephoned by Bruce Allen, director of the Einstein@home project and a director of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Hannover, to inform them that their screensaver had been the ones to crunch the data which enabled a significant discovery.
Einstein@home is one of many projects which can be run under the Berkeley developed distributed computing screensaver called BOINC. The project had been devoted to finding evidence of so-called gravitational waves but has not met with success for four years. Allen had then directed a proportion of the massive computing power of the project towards searching for evidence of pulsar stars.
BOINC is a program which allows personal computers to contribute processing power to various projects when they are idle. Under the BOINC framework are a number of different projects which users can opt to participate in such as the well-known SETI@home search for extra terrestrial intelligence and climateprediction.net which seeks to build a superior model of climate change.
The newly discovered recycled isolated pulsar is around 17,000 light years distant and one of only around a dozen found to date.