Sophisticated electronic-alert networks have thus been developed, which allow any registered user to instantly notify everyone else as to what they’ve seen and where to look. The truly dedicated sleep with their phones by their beds, ready to be awakened by an automatic alert calling them to action.

Upon receiving such an alert, astronomers will swing their telescopes to the relevant patch of sky, eager to capture their own contribution to the aftermath of the event before it fades away. Every day, a global game of “whack-a-mole“ takes place as these alerts crisscross the globe and call stargazers to action.

Accumulating fiery findings

What have we learned from time-domain astronomy?

We have seen colossal distant star quakes, which release more energy than the sun can produce in a quarter of a million years. We have seen stars cry out their final farewell in a flash of light as they fall into the maw of a giant black hole. We have seen invisible noodle-like tubes of gas, drifting in front of galaxies, flaring and distorting their light like a funhouse mirror. And we have borne witness to the birth cries of newborn black holes, formed when a star’s nuclear furnace shuts down and gravity takes over.

The universe is a dynamic, violent, exciting place. We have begun a heady new era, in which the sky changes in real time as we watch with amazement.

This post originally appeared at The Conversation.

📬 Sign up for the Daily Brief

Our free, fast, and fun briefing on the global economy, delivered every weekday morning.