What is a Cosmic Cataclysm?

Cosmic cataclysms are mysterious and fleeting explosions that may be observable in the night sky for anywhere from a few seconds to weeks, or even years. For example, supernovae and gamma-ray bursts are high-powered cosmic explosions that we know of, but there are many other exotic happenings in the night sky yet to be studied and understood. In such explosions, there is a temporary but drastic increase in brightness that Citizen Astronomers can observe to help astronomers understand these cataclysmic events.

Stellar Death to Cosmic Cataclysm

The last stages of a star’s life can cause cosmic explosions visible to us on Earth. For example, novae come from star systems where a star and a white dwarf orbit around each other. White dwarfs are the dense cores of dead sun-like stars and can go nova when they briefly reignite by cannibalizing their companion star. However, supernovae are much more powerful. These cataclysmic events can be caused by a white dwarf completely erupting or a giant star caving under its own gravity. A collapsing star can leave behind no star at all, a black hole, or a neutron star. Neutron stars are the densest objects in the universe – they are only about 15 km wide, but one teaspoon of their material would weigh 4 billion tons!

An Exotic Universe

Novae and Supernovae are not the only type of cosmic cataclysms that our universe has to offer. Other exotic events loom in the great beyond, like gamma ray bursts, which are tremendously energetic explosions that have been observed in distant galaxies. They are the most energetic and luminous events since the Big Bang and are thought to signify the birth of black holes or the merging of neutron stars. Fast radio bursts are another type of short-lived event, which may be caused by over-powered neutron stars. Astronomers are still hard at work studying these and other mysterious happenings, and Citizen Astronomers can help as long as there is something visible to observe.

Your Contribution

Cataclysmic events happen every night, and oftentimes are bright enough to be observed by Unistellar telescopes! By detecting the increase and decrease in brightness from these transient events, you can help space scientists figure out what caused them. 

To start watching these explosions , visit our Missions page to see what events are visible to you. Head to the Tutorial page for guidance on how to master your Unistellar telescope. The exciting results from Citizen Astronomers’ observations of cosmic explosion are posted on the Results page, so you can see what kind of discoveries you will be making!

Getting started


Discover how to use your telescope as a scientific tool for Cosmic Cataclysms.


Find a mission you can contribute to.


Discover the exciting results the Unistellar community produced.