Volunteers download a free program to search for these primes with a cash award offered to anyone lucky enough to find a new prime. Chris Caldwell maintains an authoritative web site on the largest known primes as well an excellent history of Mersenne primes. Cooper's computer reported the prime to the server on September 17, 2015.
The prime number is calculated by multiplying together 77,232,917 twos, and then subtracting one.
It weighs in at 23,249,425 digits, becoming the largest prime number known to mankind. Big enough to fill an entire shelf of books totalling 9,000 pages!
It bests the previous record prime, also discovered by GIMPS, by 910,807 digits. If every second you were to write five digits to an inch then 54 days later you'd have a number stretching over 73 miles (118 km) -- almost 3 miles (5 km) longer than the previous record prime.
Jonathan Pace is a 51 year old Electrical Engineer living in Germantown Tennessee.
While prime numbers are important for cryptography, this prime is too large to currently be of practical value.
However, the search itself does have several practical benefits.
Thanks to all the GIMPS members that contributed their resources towards achieving this milestone.
Join now to help GIMPS press onward to proving M(42643801) is the 46th Mersenne prime. Curtis Cooper, one of many thousands of GIMPS volunteers, used one of his university's computers to make the find.
GIMPS founder George Woltman, Prime Net creator Scott Kurowski, Primenet administrator Aaron Blosser, thank and congratulate all the GIMPS members that made this discovery possible.