Bellatrix Upgrade, Explained — Ethereum Merge Begins

Rachel Curry - Author
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Sep. 6 2022, Published 11:07 a.m. ET

The Ethereum blockchain’s big merge has officially begun, and it starts with the Bellatrix upgrade. Here's what we know about the upgrade.

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What is the Bellatrix upgrade on Ethereum? This upgrade marks the official start of the Ethereum merge, a process that shifts the blockchain to a fully proof-of-stake protocol.

The Ethereum merge has officially begun.

The long-awaited Ethereum merge has begun, launching the blockchain’s journey to a proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus mechanism. Ethereum formerly operated using proof-of-work (PoW — the same one Bitcoin uses). PoS is more energy-efficient than PoW, using less computer power to complete transactions.

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The Ethereum merge is years in the making. The team used the time to ensure the blockchain retains a high level of security.

The first official step in the merge is the Bellatrix upgrade, which went live on the PoS chain (dubbed the Beacon Chain) on Sept. 6.

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The Bellatrix upgrade is a key element to the Ethereum merge.

Bellatrix is a software upgrade for the Ethereum blockchain that readies it for a total PoS transition. Ethereum wrote in a blog post, “The Merge is a two-step process. The first step is a network upgrade, Bellatrix, on the consensus layer triggered by an epoch height. This is followed by the execution layer's transition from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake, Paris.”

Bellatrix proves that Ethereum’s efforts to conduct a technically challenging merge are paying off.

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For reference, an “epoch” on the Ethereum blockchain is a set of up to 32 blocks. Each epoch acts as a validator on the network.

The Beacon Chain has been operating for a while, but as a layer on top of the mainnet. Transactions still take place on the mainnet, but this merge changes that.

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Somewhere between Sept. 10–20, the Bellatrix upgrade will follow up with the Paris upgrade, which will make PoS a reality for Ethereum. The blockchain has set a specific mining difficulty level, measured by terminal total difficulty (TTD), that will trigger the Paris upgrade.

Bellatrix contributes to a proof-of-stake Ethereum.

The Bellatrix upgrade is a key building block for the Ethereum merge. Operating as a PoS blockchain could give Ethereum’s coin, Ether (ETH), an advantage against competitors. While there are other PoS blockchains (like Cardano and Solana), Ethereum will be the most popular. Plus, Bitcoin (BTC) still uses a PoW blockchain (which, frankly, may never change).

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ETH is trading at $1,657.97 as of mid-morning on Sept. 6, up about 6.6 percent in a 24-hour period.

The Ethereum Foundation says the merge will reduce energy consumption by 99.95 percent once complete. This is because PoW mechanisms require a network of computers continuously solving puzzles to validate transactions. Meanwhile, PoS mechanisms allow validators to stake ETH for transaction security.

As the Bellatrix upgrade rides off into the sunset, it’s worth noting that the merge won't solve all of the problems people have with the Ethereum blockchain. Gas fees and NFT fees will still be high to incentivize miners and satisfy demand. The speed is also poised to remain the same.

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