IBM supercomputers are being used by the US government to track UFOs.
The US Air Force Space Surveillance Team chose IBM's SP supercomputer to identify objects being tracked by its telescopes.
The team, which refines images that its telescopes digitally photograph from a 10,000-foot dormant volcano in Maui, Hawaii, will use the electronic brain to hunt outer space for old satellites, foreign spacecraft and UFOs.
Objects photographed might include errant communications satellites and other space junk as well as non-US spacecrafts, said IBM.
The supercomputer is 40 times faster than the Deep Blue computer that defeated chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. It processes at a peak of 480 billion calculations a second and is powered by 320 copper-based Power3 II microprocessor. The system also features 224Gb of memory and 2.9Tb of hard disk space.
An earlier version of the supercomputer played a key role in the space shuttle Discovery flight.
Steve Karowski, associate director of the Maui High Performance Computing Centre, said the latest acquisition will help improve turnaround times for researchers.
The supercomputer is up and running, and applications are being ported to the platform right now, he said, adding that the supercomputer will be used for a variety of applications.
One of the goals will be to reduce the time taken to refine images to about a second or less, and some of the work will be done by software optimisation. "That's a big improvement but it hasn't been completed yet," said Karowski.
IBM beat Compaq, Hewlett Packard and SGI to the contract.
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The observations were made using the Atacama Array in the Chilean desert