This award funds the continued operations and further development of Einstein@Home and its software infrastructure, the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC). Einstein@Home is one of the largest and most powerful computers on the planet. It searches astrophysical data for the weak signals from spinning neutron stars. Unlike a normal supercomputer, the computing power of Einstein@Home comes from ordinary home computers and laptops that have been "signed up" by about 300,000 members of the general public. When otherwise idle, these computers automatically download observational data over the Internet from Einstein@Home servers, search the data for the weak signals from spinning neutron stars, and return the results of the analysis to the servers.
Neutron stars are exotic objects: they represent the most compact form that a star can take before it collapses into a black hole. Since they were discovered in 1967, about two thousand neutron stars have been found (including several discovered in 2010 and 2011 by Einstein@Home). Neutron star observations provide a unique view into the behavior of matter at extreme pressures and densities, and into the nature of gravitation when gravity is very strong. Under certain circumstances, neutron stars can be emitters of pulsing radio waves (pulsars). Einstein@home exploits the unique capabilities of the Arecibo Radio Observatory, the largest and most sensitive single-dish radio telescope in the world, to search for these signals. It is possible that neutron stars can also emit gravitational waves. Gravitational waves were first predicted by Einstein in 1917 but have never been directly detected. Einstein@home can search the data from gravitational wave detectors such as those of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) for these signals. Einstein@home also supports the BOINC software infrastructure to benefit dozens of computationally intensive projects in other areas of science, that also exploit volunteer distributed computing. And it is a remarkable tool for scientific outreach: Einstein@Home allows hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens from around the world to participate in and make meaningful contribution to cutting-edge scientific research.