Jonathan Pace is a 51-year old electrical engineer and recently made a discovery that was a cause for excitement for all the maths fans around the world. He was part of a collaborative effort throughout the globe to find the largest prime number. He got a belated Christmas gift on 26th December when he discovered that the number 2^{77,232,917} – 1 is prime.

The newly discovered prime number is listed as M77232917. It means that the number is one less than a power of two and is known as Mersenne prime, named after a French monk Main Mersenne, who was an avid student of numbers. The new prime number is 23 million digits long and is one million digits longer than the previous largest prime number.

Mathematicians have been interested in prime numbers for three millennia according to Chris Caldwell, a professor of mathematics at the University of Tennessee at Martin. *“Finding a prime is not going to change any theorems in mathematics, but this is a type of prime that has been interesting to mathematicians since several centuries before Christ,”* Caldwell said in an interview with CNBC.

The hunt for the next largest prime number is already on and according to Iain Bethune, who works at PrimeGrid, a website that taps into computers around the world in order to find all prime numbers. *“There is not a particular concrete thing that you can do with massive primes. Instead, it’s about a quest to find something completely new.”*

Pace started searching for prime numbers 14 years ago and just got a hit. Let’s see how long it takes for the next prime number to be discovered.