Unprecedented Cosmic Microwave Data Processed, Shared on SGI Systems

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Sept. 9 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Silicon Graphics, Inc. (NYSE: SGI – News) today announced that NASA scientists using SGI® server and the SGI® InfiniteStorage Shared File System CXFS(TM) solution have made one of the most important scientific discoveries of recent years based on data from a NASA Explorer mission. SGI systems at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., have helped piece together a map of the remnant heat from the Big Bang, providing much-needed answers to fundamental questions about the origin and fate of our universe.

This “baby picture” of the infant universe comes from NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), which measures the temperature of the cosmic microwave background radiation over the full sky with unprecedented accuracy. Cosmic microwave background radiation is the radiant heat left over from the Big Bang, the properties of which contain a wealth of information about physical conditions in the early universe.

WMAP has made a map of the temperature fluctuations of the cosmic microwave background radiation with much higher resolution, sensitivity, and accuracy than satellites that came before it. WMAP data processed and shared on SGI systems at NASA Goddard offer the first detailed full-sky map of the oldest light in the universe-from over 13 billion years ago or 379,000 years after the Big Bang. This cosmic portrait, which is the equivalent of taking a picture of an 80-year-old person on the day of their birth, provides NASA scientists with firm answers to age-old questions about the universe.

“We’ve captured the infant universe in sharp focus, and from this portrait we can now describe the universe with unprecedented accuracy,” said Dr. Charles L. Bennett, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and the WMAP Principal Investigator. “The data are solid, a real gold mine.”

The power of SGI technology has helped to unlock the secrets of the universe. SGI’s Origin® server technology helped enable the WMAP team to cut science processing time by 75%. In addition, the recent implementation of SGI’s CXFS(TM) into production processing, was seamless. As a result of integrating CXFS — which enables any server to access data at direct connect speeds — performance in production processing improved by a factor of four.

“NASA Goddard and the WMAP team are yet another example of how SGI technology is being used in a variety of scientific disciplines, including research, medical, and molecular modeling, to manage complex data and file sharing for scientific breakthroughs,” said Thomas Stanley, national director for civilian agencies, SGI. “We are proud of our role in aiding this latest scientific discovery with SGI solutions that combine critical high-performance computing and data management technologies.”

One of the biggest surprises revealed in the WMAP data with the help of SGI technology is the first generation of stars to shine in the universe first ignited only 200 million years after the Big Bang, much earlier than many scientists had expected. In addition, the new cosmic portrait from WMAP precisely pegs the age of the universe at 13.7 billion years old, with a remarkably small one percent margin of error.

The WMAP team also found that the Big Bang and Inflation theories continue to ring true. The contents of the universe include 4 percent atoms (ordinary matter), 23 percent of an unknown type of dark matter, and 73 percent of a mysterious dark energy. The new measurements even shed light on the nature of the dark energy, which acts as a sort of anti-gravity.

“These numbers represent a milestone in how we view our universe,” said Dr. Anne Kinney, NASA director for astronomy and physics. “This is a true turning point for cosmology.”

WMAP helps detect tiny fluctuations, or anisotropy, in the cosmic microwave background which are related to fluctuations in the density of matter in the early universe and thus carry information about the initial conditions for the formation of cosmic structures such as galaxies, clusters, and voids. The new information from WMAP sheds light on several key questions in cosmology. By answering many of the current open questions, it will likely point astrophysicists towards newer and deeper questions about the nature of our universe. WMAP will continue to observe the cosmic microwave background radiation for an additional three years, and its data will reveal new insights into the theory of Inflation and the nature of the dark energy.

About WMAP

WMAP is named in honor of David Wilkinson of Princeton University, a world-renown cosmologist and WMAP team member who died in September 2002. Launched on June 30, 2001, WMAP maintains a distant orbit about the second Lagrange Point, or “L2,” a million miles from Earth. WMAP is the result of a partnership between the Goddard Space Flight Center and Princeton University. Additional Science Team members are located at Brown University, Providence R.I., the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, the University of Chicago, and the University of California, Los Angeles. WMAP is part of the NASA Explorer program, managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center. For moreinformation, including high-quality images, videos and press products, refer to: http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov

About SGI

SGI, also known as Silicon Graphics, Inc., is the world’s leader in high-performance computing, visualization and storage. SGI’s vision is to provide technology that enables the most significant scientific and creative breakthroughs of the 21st century. Whether it’s sharing images to aid in brain surgery, finding oil more efficiently, studying global climate or enabling the transition from analog to digital broadcasting, SGI is dedicated to addressing the next class of challenges for scientific, engineering and creative users. SGI was named on FORTUNE magazine’s 2003 list of “Top 100 Companies to Work For.” With offices worldwide, the company is headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., and can be found on the Web at www.sgi.com.

NOTE: Silicon Graphics, Origin, SGI, XFS and the SGI logo are registered trademarks, and CXFS is a trademark of Silicon Graphics, Inc., in the United States and/or other countries worldwide. All other trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.