Skip to content

Subscribe to Events on Moonbase Alpha


The ability to subscribe to Ethereum-style events was added with the release of Moonbase Alpha v2. In this guide, we will outline the subscription types available and current limitations.

Checking Prerequisites

The examples in this guide are based on an Ubuntu 18.04 environment. You will also need the following:

We need to install Node.js (we'll use v15.x) and the npm package manager. You can download directly from Node.js or in your terminal:

curl -sL | sudo -E bash -

sudo apt install -y nodejs
# You can use homebrew (
brew install node

# Or you can use nvm (
nvm install node

We can verify that everything is installed correctly by querying the version for each package:

node -v
npm -v

As of writing this guide, the versions used were 14.6.0 and 6.14.6, respectively. We will also need to install the Web3 package by executing:

npm install --save web3

To verify the installed version of Web3, you can use the ls command:

npm ls web3

As of writing this guide, the version used was 1.3.0.

Subscribing to Event Logs on Moonbase Alpha

Any contract that follows the ERC-20 token standard emits an event related to a transfer of tokens, that is, event Transfer(address indexed from, address indexed to, uint256 value). For this example, we will subscribe to the logs of such events. Using the web3.js library, we need the following piece of code:

const Web3 = require('web3');
const web3 = new Web3('wss://');

web3.eth.subscribe('logs', {
    address: 'ContractAddress',
    topics: ['0xddf252ad1be2c89b69c2b068fc378daa952ba7f163c4a11628f55a4df523b3ef']
}, (error, result) => {
    if (error)
    .on("connected", function (subscriptionId) {
    .on("data", function (log) {

Note that we are connecting to the WebSocket endpoint of Moonbase Alpha. We use the web3.eth.subscribe(‘logs’, options [, callback]) method to subscribe to the logs, filtered by the given options. In our case, the options are the contract’s address where the events are emitted from and the topics used to describe the event. More information about topics can be found in this Medium post. If no topics are included, you subscribe to all events emitted by the contract. In order to only filter the Transfer event, we need to include the signature of the event, calculated as:

EventSignature = keccak256(Transfer(address,address,uint256))

The result of the calculation is shown in the previous code snippet. We’ll return to filtering by topics later on. The rest of the code handles the callback function. Once we execute this code, we’ll get a subscription ID, and the terminal will wait for any event through that subscription:

Subscription ID

Next, an ERC-20 token transfer will be sent with the following parameters:

  • From address: 0x44236223aB4291b93EEd10E4B511B37a398DEE55
  • To address: 0x8841701Dba3639B254D9CEe712E49D188A1e941e
  • Value (tokens): 1000000000000000000 - that is 1 with 18 zeros

Once we send the transaction, the log of the event emitted by the transaction will appear in the terminal:

Log of the transfer event

Let's break down the response received. Our target event sends two pieces of indexed information: the from and to addresses (in that order), which are treated like topics. The other piece of data shared by our event is the number of tokens, which is not indexed. Therefore, there is a total of three topics (the maximum is four), which correspond to the opcode LOG3:

Description of LOG3

Consequently, you can see that the from and to addresses are contained inside the topics returned by the logs. Ethereum addresses are 40 hex characters long (1 hex character is 4 bits, hence 160 bits or H160 format). Thus, the extra 24 zeros are needed to fill the gap to H256, which is 64 hex characters long.

Unindexed data is returned in the data field of the logs, but this is encoded in bytes32/hex. To decode it we can use, for example, this online tool, and verify that the data is in fact 1 (plus 18 zeros).

If the event returns multiple unindexed values, they will be appended one after the other in the same order the event emits them. Therefore, each value is then obtained by deconstructing data into separate 32 bytes (or 64 hex character long) pieces.

Using Wildcards and Conditional Formatting

In the v2 release that introduced the subscribing to logs feature, there were some limitations regarding using wildcards and conditional formatting for the topics. Nevertheless, with the release of Moonbase Alpha v3, this is now possible.

Using the same example as in the previous section, lets subscribe to the events of the token contract with the following code:

const Web3 = require('web3');
const web3 = new Web3('wss://');

         address: 'ContractAddress',
         topics: [
      (error, result) => {
         if (error) console.error(error);
   .on('connected', function (subscriptionId) {
   .on('data', function (log) {

Here, by using the wildcard null in place for the event signature, we filter to listen to all events emitted by the contract that we subscribed to. But with this configuration, we can also use a second input field (topic_1) to define a filter by address as mentioned before. In the case of our subscription, we are notifying that we want to only receive events where topic_1 is one of the addresses we are providing. Note that the addresses need to be in H256 format. For example, the address 0x44236223aB4291b93EEd10E4B511B37a398DEE55 needs to be entered as 0x00000000000000000000000044236223aB4291b93EEd10E4B511B37a398DEE55. As before, the output of this subscription will display the event signature in topic_0 to tell us which event was emitted by the contract.

Conditional Subscription

As shown, after we provided the two addresses with conditional formatting, we received two logs with the same subscription ID. Events emitted by transactions from different addresses will not throw any logs to this subscription.

This example showed how we could subscribe to just the event logs of a specific contract, but the web3.js library provides other subscription types that we’ll go over in the following sections.

Subscribe to Incoming Pending Transactions

In order to subscribe to pending transactions, we can use the web3.eth.subscribe(‘pendingTransactions’, [, callback]) method, implementing the same callback function to check for the response. This is much simpler than our previous example, and it returns the transaction hash of the pending transactions.

Subscribe pending transactions response

We can verify that this transaction hash is the same as that shown in MetaMask (or Remix).

Subscribe to Incoming Block Headers

Another type available under the Web3.js library is to subscribe to new block headers. To do so, we use the web3.eth.subscribe('newBlockHeaders' [, callback]) method, implementing the same callback function to check for the response. This subscription provides incoming block headers and can be used to track changes in the blockchain.

Subscribe to block headers response

Note that only one block header is shown in the image. These messages are displayed for every block produced so they can fill up the terminal quite fast.

Check if a Node is Synchronized with the Network

With pub/sub it is also possible to check whether a particular node you are subscribed to is currently synchronized with the network. For that, we can leverage the web3.eth.subscribe(‘syncing' [, callback]) method, implementing the same callback function to check for the response. This subscription will return an object when the node is synced with the network.

Subscribe to syncing response

Current Limitations

The pub/sub implementation in Frontier is still in active development. This first version allows DApp developers (or users in general) to subscribe to specific event types, but there are still some limitations. You may have noticed from previous examples that some of the fields are not showing proper information with the current version released, and that is because certain properties are yet to be supported by Frontier.