There’s a new behemoth in the ongoing search for ever-larger prime numbers — and it’s nearly 25 million digits long.
A prime is a number that can be divided only by two whole numbers: itself and 1. The newly discovered number is what’s known as a Mersenne prime, named for a French monk named Marin Mersenne who studied primes some 350 years ago.
Mersenne primes have a simple formula: 2n-1. In this case, “n” is equal to 82,589,933, which is itself a prime number. If you do the math, the new largest-known prime is a whopping 24,862,048 digits long. Download the number as a zip file.
The latest Mersenne prime comes courtesy of a project started in 1996 called the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search, in which people download special software that runs in the background on their computers. A computer owned by Patrick Laroche of Ocala, Fla., discovered the number on Dec. 7, and mathematicians have spent the past two weeks verifying the calculations. It’s more than a million and a half digits longer than the previous largest known prime, discovered about a year ago by a computer in Germantown, Tenn.