The next hardfork of the number two blockchain, called Bellatrix, began on Tuesday at epoch 144,896, bringing the network one step closer to its long-awaited Merge upgrade.
Terence Tsao of Prysmatic Labs, Anthony Sassano of The Daily Gwei, and numerous other notable Ethereum community members flocked to Twitter to celebrate the release of the upgrade.
The Ethereum Merge occurs in two stages. As part of Bellatrix, the network’s consensus layer, also known as the Beacon Chain, was updated in preparation for the Merge. Ethereum will begin issuing Proof-of-Stake blocks when the Total Terminal Difficulty reaches 58750000000000000000000. Total Terminal Difficulty is the level of difficulty necessary to mine the last Proof-of-Work block. Due to the changing hashrate of the network, it is currently unknown when the update will be released. However, current estimations put it between September 13 and September 15.
The Merge has been promised over many years but has been repeatedly postponed. However, as the event approaches, it has become the dominant storyline influencing market mood in recent months. After reaching 18-month lows in June as a result of Terra’s bankruptcy and the accompanying Three Arrows Capital liquidity problem, ETH soared over 100 percent throughout the summer, momentarily touching $2,000 in mid-August. According to CoinGecko statistics, the price is present at $1,665, up 6.3% today.
In recent weeks, various Ethereum-related coins have profited from the approaching Merge in addition to ETH. They include the Proof-of-Work ETC token from Ethereum Classic and the LDO from Lido. ETHW, a new currency that will serve as the native asset for a Proof-of-Work fork of the Ethereum network, is perhaps the most actively discussed token among Merge market speculators outside ETH.
ETHW will be awarded to ETH holders after the Merge, and although the majority of the Ethereum community is committed to supporting the Proof-of-Stake upgrade, exchanges like Binance and FTX have announced their intentions to make any successful fork tokens tradeable.
According to Blocknative’s countdown timer, the Merge is expected to conclude early on September 14, around seven days from today.