KANSAS CITY, Mo. (February 6, 2013)—Mathematicians at the University of Central Missouri have found the largest prime number ever identified, but it’s not one easily remembered.
The researchers identified the 17 million-digit number last month as the 48th known Mersenne prime and a different computer system running on different hardware confirmed that it’s a prime number.
Prime numbers are whole numbers such as 3, 7 and 11 that can only be divided without a remainder by themselves and 1.
It’s the third Mersenne prime identified at the university in Warrensburg, about 50 miles east of Kansas City.
Mersenne primes are named after their discoverer, 17th century French mathematician Marin Mersenne.
They're expressed as 2P-1, or two to the power of "P'' minus one.
P is itself a prime number.
For the new prime, P is 57,885,161.