Since its launch in 2006, over 45,000 people have given their spare personal computing capacity to help map the details of our Milky Way. The sheer volume of data coming from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey meant that some astronomers were going to be waiting light years to process their bit of the cosmos. So the smarts at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute decided to use the crowd computing power of BOINC to speed up the process.
The project, MilkyWay@Home, uses the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC) platform, which is widely known for the SETI@home project used to search for signs of extraterrestrial life. Today, MilkyWay@Home has outgrown even this famous project, in terms of speed, making it the fastest computing project on the BOINC platform and perhaps the second fastest public distributed computing program ever in operation (just behind Folding@home).
With some 17,000 active members, Milkyway@Home is generating highly accurate three dimensional models of the Sagittarius stream, which provides knowledge about how the Milky Way galaxy was formed and how tidal tails are created when galaxies merge.
You too can join MilkyWay@Home.