" MilkyWay@home
Welcome to MilkyWay@home

What is MilkyWay@home?

Milkyway@Home uses the BOINC platform to harness volunteered computing resources, creating a highly accurate three dimensional model of the Milky Way galaxy using data gathered by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. This project enables research in both astroinformatics and computer science.

In computer science, the project is investigating different optimization methods which are resilient to the fault-prone, heterogeneous and asynchronous nature of Internet computing; such as evolutionary and genetic algorithms, as well as asynchronous newton methods. While in astroinformatics, 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.

Milkyway@Home is a joint effort between Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's departments of Computer Science and Physics, Applied Physics and Astronomy. Feel free to contact us via our forums, or email astro[at]cs.lists.rpi[dot]edu.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute accessibility statement

Read more on our Science Page, or check out our YouTube Channel!

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Milkyway@Home is currently run by:
  • Travis Desell, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, University of North Dakota
  • Heidi Newberg, Professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy
  • Malik Magdon-Ismail, Professor of Computer Science
  • Carlos Varela, Associate Professor of Computer Science
  • Boleslaw Szymanski, Claire and Roland Schmitt Distinguished Professor of Computer Science
  • Jake Weiss, Postdoctoral Researcher in Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy
  • Eric Mendelsohn, Graduate Research Assistant in Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy
  • Kevin Roux, Graduate Research Assistant in Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy
  • Blurf, Volunteer Forum Moderator
With Ongoing Support from:
  • Siddhartha Shelton, PhD Physics
  • Matthew Newby, Adjunct Faculty in Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy
  • Jeffery Thompson, Graduate Research Assistant in Physics, Apllied Physics, and Astronomy
  • Matt Arsenault, Graduate Research Assistant in Physics
With previous support from:
  • Benjamin Willet, Postdoctoral Researcher in Physics, Applied Physics and Astronomy
  • Nathan Cole, Graduate Research Assistant in Physics, Applied Physics and Astronomy
  • Maia Marchetti, Undergraduate Research Assistant in Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy
  • Adam Susser, Undergraduate Research Assistant in Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy
  • Jake Bauer, Undergraduate Research Assistant in Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy
  • Steve Ulins, Undergraduate Research Assistant in Physics
  • Colin Rice, Undergraduate Research Assistant in Physics
  • Shane Reilly, Undergraduate Research Assistant in Computer Science
  • Joe Doran, Undergraduate Research Assistant in Computer Science
  • Brian Chitester, Undergraduate Research Assistant in Computer Science
  • Dave Przybylo, Undergraduate Research Assistant in Computer Science
  • John Vickers, Undergraduate Research Assistant in Physics, Applied Physics and Astronomy
  • Anthony Waters, Graduate Research Assistant in Computer Science
  • Clayton Rayment, Graduate Research Assistant in Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy


Funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Milkway@home is funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendtions expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.

Individual grants are listed on the information page.

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User of the Day

User profile Profile iShane
1994.06.12-én születtem, hogy hol az nem fontos. 2015 februárjától kezdődően Németországban élek. A...


Commenting on Recent Issues with the server
Hello everyone,

I wanted to apologize for the recent server issues. The migration brought unforeseen challenges, particularly with DNS changes. As a newcomer to server management and BOINC projects, I've been on a steep learning curve to transition this project to a new server.

As mentioned in a previous post, and reiterated here, we have set up a temporary DNS entry for milkyway-new that now points to the server. The changes will take some time to become effective (I don't have a specific timeline, but I'm closely monitoring the process). This update will allow for downloading older work units linked to milkyway-new and uploading completed ones.

I'm immensely grateful to all the volunteers who have suggested fixes and assisted others with client-side issues. Your contributions have significantly accelerated problem-solving during this server migration. I can't thank you enough for your support.

To those who have voiced frustrations, I apologize for any shortcomings in my expertise. I recognize the value of the computing time you generously volunteer and understand your desire for acknowledgment of your contributions. I encourage you to continue sharing your concerns, as long as they are respectful. Destructive or derogatory comments don't contribute constructively to our project. We aim to foster a positive environment at MilkyWay@home for everyone passionate about science and distributed computing, free from unnecessary negativity.

One common concern has been the need for better communication. Despite my efforts to preemptively share updates, it appears more is needed. I would like to improve in this area. I'm considering regular updates (weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly) and would appreciate your thoughts on this. Please share your ideas in the comments on how I could improve communication.

On a related note, we are excited to announce that we're currently developing a new version of the n-body code. This upgrade will allow for the fitting of additional parameters, such as orbit parameters, along with other minor improvements. We anticipate implementing these changes in the coming weeks.
Additionally, we are making plans to reintroduce support for Mac users. More details will be provided as soon as we have further information.

Once again, I apologize for the recent issues with MilkyWay@home and am very thankful for your patience.

Best regards,
29 Nov 2023, 22:02:25 UTC · Discuss

Migrating MilkyWay@home to a New Server
Hello everyone,

We are preparing to migrate MilkyWay@home to a new server on 1 November 2023 at 2 pm UTC. This new server has better hardware (specifically more memory), which we expect will improve the performance of the website and the rate at which you can get new workunits. We are forced to perform this migration at a fast pace due to RPI requiring that we update the server OS to ensure proper security.

We expect that this migration will take one day to complete. If it looks like the downtime will be longer than that, we will update you on our Facebook page. It is possible that the server might experience some unexpected behavior after this migration, but I will be closely monitoring the situation to resolve any issues as they may come up. In particular, I will be watching the message boards closely, and I will make a thread for people to report issues with the new server.

That being said, there were some issues with getting BOINC to recognize the binary up on the new server, so we had to increment the binary version from 1.82 to 1.83. I am not sure what this means for workunits that are awaiting validation after the switch, but I will do what I can to make sure everyone gets as much credit as possible for their work. Unfortunately, it is plausible that you may lose some credit due to the migration, which we apologize for.

I apologize for the short notice and thank you in advance for your patience as I try and make this switch as smooth as possible.

Thank you,
31 Oct 2023, 1:25:46 UTC · Discuss

Server Maintenance 6/28/2023 12 PM EDT (4 PM UTC)
Hey Everyone,

I'll be shutting the server down for about an hour or two tomorrow at noon EDT (4 PM UTC) to take care of the loads of WUs stuck waiting for validation. They are from leftover Separation WUs trickling in after the project was shut off. Unfortunately I do not think that credit will be given out for these stuck WUs, as they were turned in after the project was shut down, and the validator is not running to give people credit.

N-body WUs will not be affected by this, and all credit will be assigned as per usual for N-body WUs.

27 Jun 2023, 17:02:13 UTC · Discuss

Separation Application Shutting Down on Tuesday, Jun 20th
Hello everyone,

Thanks for your discussion on the other thread (https://milkyway.cs.rpi.edu/milkyway/forum_thread.php?id=5007). Based on your input we have decided to turn off Separation this Tuesday. N-body will still be running, and we appreciate anyone who wants to help crunch work for that application! I am not able to give you an exact time estimate because it's not clear exactly how long it will take to properly shut things down; however, I expect it to be sometime around noon EDT (1600 UTD).

We would like to once again sincerely express our gratitude for all the help that you have given in crunching for this project. We have learned a lot from Separation, and it's all thanks to you. We hope to see you stick around and help us continue crunching Nbody work in the future!

16 Jun 2023, 14:02:53 UTC · Discuss

Separation Project Coming To An End
Dear Volunteers,

We are beginning to sunset the Separation project (note that this is different from the N-Body project, which still needs your help!!!). Thanks to your computational contributions, we have completed the goals that we set out to accomplish with this the project, so we are going to shut down the Separation project in the near future. We are planning on submitting a paper containing the final results of the Separation project to an academic journal in the near future. It is possible that the reviewer may request revisions that involve re-running Separation data, in which case we might bring it back for a short time, but until that happens we do not need your computer time for this. We would like to sincerely thank you for all the time and effort that you spent helping us complete this substantial task. We owe the success of the project to you all.

With this announcement comes a few updates to MilkyWay@home: MilkyWay@home will continue to exist, but only as the Nbody project. Because of the complexity of running Nbody tree codes on GPUs, there is little speed-up from running Nbody on a GPU compared to an equivalent CPU. Although we did beta-test a full GPU Nbody application, we have decided not to deploy it due to concerns over maintaining its support; among other issues, supporting GPU Nbody would require changing the GPU code every time the CPU code is updated, and making sure every change is tested and works identically on both platforms. Since we are actively working on extensions of the Nbody code that include such things as the effects of the Large Magellanic Cloud's gravity and the consequences of self-interacting dark matter on the formation of tidal streams, this parallel support would be difficult. So, when Separation shuts down, we will be ending GPU support for MilkyWay@home. This will have the greatest impact on people who crunch lots of Separation work units on high-end GPUs; these users can expect to earn a much lower amount of credit per time than they did before. If you contribute only CPU cycles, your ability to earn credit will be unaffected. We still want as many people to contribute CPU time to MilkyWay@home as possible! However, we understand that if your goal is to use GPUs to obtain a large amount of credit quickly, there are more efficient ways to do this and other projects that can better use your resources.

We would appreciate your input on this because we expect that it will probably take some time for GPU-oriented users to swap that hardware over to different projects. How long would you like us to wait before we shut down Separation?

Again, thank you so much for letting us use your processors! They have not only increased our knowledge of the Milky Way galaxy that we live in, but they have also contributed to five PhD theses and trained dozens of undergraduate students to build and maintain large and complex computing systems. These students and I thank you for your contributions. We will be posting the results of the final Separation project results probably later this year, after they have gone through the peer review process (which takes about six months on average, with wide variability).

Tom & Prof. Newberg
13 Jun 2023, 16:17:05 UTC · Discuss

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