Researchers from the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg in the second week of February 2013 discovered the largest prime number of the world, beating an earlier record of largest prime number by more than 4 million digits. The findings of the researchers were a part of Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS). GIMPS is a distributed computing project which was specifically formulated for finding out a certain kind of prime number which was first identified in 17th century.
All the prime numbers in the world can be divided by themselves and 1 only. However there are certain rare kinds of prime numbers called Mersenne primes which have the form 2 multiplied by itself p times minus 1, where p denotes a prime number. The new number now shot to 2 multiplied by itself 57885161 times minus 1 and this broke the record of finding the new and even larger primes.
The new largest prime number discovered by the researchers has more than 17 million digits and is an only 48th Mersenne prime found so far. It is the 14th discovery by GIMPS. The earlier record of 2 multiplied by itself 43112609 times minus 1 was also discovered by GIMPS back in 2008 and it had just a few less than 13 million digits. GIMPS discovered all the top ten largest Mersenne primes.
There are infinite numbers of primes and there is not any specific formula for generating the primes like these. Therefore discovering numbers like these involves intensive computation.
The Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS) software functions on almost 1000 university computers. One of the computers out of these spent 39 days in proving that number discovered was actually prime and later it was verified by other researchers as well.