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NASA's Perserverance rover to drill into Mars using part made on Vancouver Island – Yahoo News Canada

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Yukon First Nations say approving mineral exploration without a land use plan violates their rights

Two Yukon First Nations are renewing calls for a regional land use plan to be completed before any new development on their traditional territories is considered, including a mineral exploration project right next door to Tombstone Territorial Park. Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation and the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun recently sent letters to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board stating that approving the quartz exploration project, called Antimony Creek, without a land use plan for the Dawson region would violate their rights. The board is in the midst of evaluating whether Ryanwood Exploration Inc., the Dawson City-based company behind the project, has provided enough information to develop the project without adversely affecting the environment. The assessment board is responsible for issuing recommendations to the Yukon and federal governments, which ultimately decide whether to greenlight a project. Regional land use plans determine what can and cannot occur in a particular region, essentially balancing conservation values, First Nations’ rights and industrial pursuits. These plans are created by independent commissions and signed off on by the Yukon government and affected First Nations. Creating them is a requirement under the Umbrella Final Agreement, which was signed by 11 First Nations in 1990 and paved the way for their self-governance. However, most First Nations have been waiting decades for these plans. Resource development in the absence of an approved land use plan “will negatively affect Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in rights under the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in final agreement,” Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in’s Jan. 14 letter states. “This is unacceptable.” Antimony Creek is on Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and Na-Cho Nyäk Dun territory and about 2.5 kilometres away from Tombstone, the territory’s flagship park that boasts towering, jagged peaks and abundant wildlife. The project is in an area of great importance to Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, whose citizens frequently harvest plants and wildlife for cultural and subsistence purposes. Traditional gravesites and heritage travelling routes are a short distance away from the project area. According to the company’s April 2020 permit application, up to 300 holes will be drilled per year, with some burrowing 10,000 metres into the earth, to find what appears to be gold and silver deposits. The 10-year project involves the construction of an access road, a network of trails and a drill pad. The company is proposing up to 883 round-trip helicopter flights on an annual basis to transport workers and supplies. According to GeoYukon, a Yukon government mapping tool, the project area covers roughly 86 square kilometres. Ryanwood Exploration Inc. didn’t return a request for comment. In its permit application, the company said First Nations haven’t been engaged, “but discussions will be conducted.” According to a 2020 assessment board report, the company intends to regularly host discussions with affected First Nations “to ensure that this project does not adversely affect surrounding local and First Nations lands, culture and people.” The Dawson Regional Planning Commission is in the process of developing a land use plan that will manage and monitor lands, waters and industry within the region — a roughly 40,000 square-kilometre area representing about 10 per cent of the territory’s land mass. According to a Jan. 26 letter the commission sent to the assessment board, permitting development before the completion of a land use plan “may impact the commission’s ability to develop recommendations for the appropriate use of land, water and other renewable and non-renewable resources within the planning region.” Sue Thomas, a spokesperson for Yukon’s Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, told The Narwhal in an email land use planning doesn’t negate tenure holders’ ability to develop their mineral claims. “Development and/or exploration projects, like any other industrial and non-industrial uses, are allowed to continue while the planning process is underway,” she said. Allowing industry to explore in a region where land use planning is underway could rule out protecting areas with high conservation values, Sebastian Jones, wildlife and habitat analyst at the Yukon Conservation Society, told The Narwhal. “It’s no secret that if projects like this can get permitted before the land use plan is in place, it will [predetermine] land use planning,” he said, adding that projects like Antimony Creek are designed to eventually result in a large mine. Jones said miners likely recognize their days are numbered to develop claims in sensitive areas, which explains why they appear to be racing to get permits before land use plans are completed. “It’s very likely that developing a mine will not be one of the approved activities in the project area,” he said. If mineral deposits are located, several mines could crop up, leading to cumulative impacts on an otherwise undisturbed area, Jones said. In a Jan. 8 letter to the assessment board, the Yukon Conservation Society recommended the project not proceed, saying access roads and the eventual building and operation of mines would cause cumulative impacts on the region. The Antimony Creek project area is in a region that’s of very high cultural value to Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in citizens, according to the First Nation’s letter. The region, known as the “cultural integrity area,” which contains roughly 88 per cent of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in’s settlement land, provides critical habitat for caribou, moose, sheep and salmon. It is also home to mineral licks, rare plants and old-growth forests, all of which help sustain wildlife and, in turn, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in harvesters. “The whole ecosystem contributes to our lifestyle and our culture,” Chief Roberta Joseph told The Narwhal. “It’s not only about food value — it’s about ensuring our connection and our spirituality with the land, it’s about bonding and passing on traditional teachings through stories and teaching about harvesting.” There are also significant heritage sites in the area. The project is located about 300 metres away from a settlement land parcel that was originally selected to protect traditional gravesites, according to the letter. The letter suggests there are likely even more burial sites, as not all heritage areas have been mapped by the First Nation. “It is concerning that there could be potential impacts on our ancestors who may have been buried in the area near the proposed application,” Joseph said. “There needs to be regard and consideration on the burials of our ancestors, wherever they’re buried throughout our traditional territory.” “It’s just a matter of ensuring that our heritage as First Nations people of this land, since millennia, is being respected in accordance to our final agreements and the spirit and intent of our final agreements.” The area is considered so important to Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in citizens because it has yet to be disturbed by industry, the letter states. “Until a land use plan is in place that takes into account Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in rights under the final agreement, the cultural integrity area must remain intact in order for land and wildlife to thrive and for traditional pursuits to continue,” the letter states. Staking should be off-limits in the Dawson region until a land use plan is in place, according to a Jan. 20 letter Na-Cho Nyäk Dun sent to the assessment board. The letter said completion of the plan is “an essential prerequisite of any further permitting in this area.” Chief Simon Mervyn didn’t reply to a return for comment. According to the letter, land use planning helps facilitate development because it provides certainty “for all.” “It will allow for Na-Cho Nyäk Dun, other Indigenous nations, public government and industry to make decisions together respecting priorities, values and criteria for development and minimize future land use conflicts by making clear where development can and cannot be pursued,” the letter states. “Most importantly, it will ensure that development respects and supports, rather than undermines, the Treaty Rights of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun.” Former vice-chair of the Dawson land use planning commission Art Webster also recently called for a halt on staking in the Dawson area. “By allowing the staking of mineral claims, it basically sends out a message saying, ‘This is the highest value of this land, the extraction of minerals’ … at the expense of considering any other values for that land,” Art Webster told The Narwhal in an interview. According to Na-Cho Nyäk Dun’s letter, the First Nation has been waiting for a completed land use plan in its traditional territory since it signed its final agreement 25 years ago. This would be separate from the Dawson land use plan. While Na-Cho Nyäk Dun is not an official party to the land use planning process in the Dawson region, it has observer status, as its territory overlaps with that of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in. The nations have an agreement in place to settle possible disputes linked to overlapping traditional territories. “In the view of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun, public government’s failure to initiate a land use planning process for the Na-Cho Nyäk Dun traditional territory is a fundamental breach of a key commitment enshrined in our treaty, and is flatly inconsistent with the honour of the Crown,” the letter states. The Antimony Creek project is only one mining application on Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in’s traditional territory, Joseph said. “There are many of them every year,” she said. A similar quartz exploration project, called Coal Creek (Monster) located roughly 85 kilometres north of Dawson City is making its way through the environmental assessment process. The Vancouver-based proponent, Go Metals, is searching for battery metals such as copper, gold and silver, according to the project proposal. According to a letter Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in sent to the assessment board, the First Nation continues “to strongly oppose” any development in the northern reaches of its traditional territory, which is relatively intact and undisturbed wilderness. Go Metals spokesperson, Scott Sheldon, told The Narwhal in an email, “We’re committed to continuing our conversations with local First Nations and we look forward to progress being made by the Dawson Regional Planning Commission to help us create better exploration plans for our battery metals project.” The Coffee Gold project, a proposed hard rock mine in a remote corner of Yukon, is also on the traditional territories of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun and Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in. Yukoners can submit feedback on that project until March 26. If this proposal is approved, the mine would be the largest in Yukon’s history. Julien Gignac, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Narwhal

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Humans actually hunted large animals and ate mostly meat for 2 millions years: study – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Despite a widespread belief that humans owe their evolution to the dietary flexibility in eating both meat and vegetables, researchers in Israel suggest that early humans were actually apex predators who hunted large animals for two million years before they sought vegetables to supplement their diet.

In a study recently published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, academics from Tel Aviv University in Israel and the University of Minho in Portugal examined modern biology to determine if stone-age humans were specialized carnivores or generalist omnivores.

“So far, attempts to reconstruct the diet of Stone-Age humans were mostly based on comparisons to 20th century hunter-gatherer societies,” one of the study’s authors, Miki Ben-Dor, a researcher at Tel Aviv University, said in a press release.

“This comparison is futile, however, because two million years ago hunter-gatherer societies could hunt and consume elephants and other large animals – while today’s hunter gatherers do not have access to such bounty.”

Instead, the researchers looked at approximately 400 previous scientific studies on human anatomy and physiology as well as archeological evidence from the Pleistocene period, or “Ice Age” period, which began about 2.6 million years ago, and lasted until 11,700 years ago.

“We decided to use other methods to reconstruct the diet of Stone-Age humans: to examine the memory preserved in our own bodies, our metabolism, genetics and physical build,” Ben-Dor said.

“Human behaviour changes rapidly, but evolution is slow. The body remembers.”

They discovered 25 lines of evidence from the studied papers on human biology that seem to show that earlier Homo sapiens were apex predators at the top of the food chain.

For example, the academics explained that humans have a high acidity in their stomachs when compared to omnivores or even other predators, which is important for consuming animal products.

“Strong acidity provides protection from harmful bacteria found in meat, and prehistoric humans, hunting large animals whose meat sufficed for days or even weeks, often consumed old meat containing large quantities of bacteria, and thus needed to maintain a high level of acidity,” Ben-Dor said.

Another piece of evidence, according to the study, is the structure of human fat cells.

“In the bodies of omnivores, fat is stored in a relatively small number of large fat cells, while in predators, including humans, it’s the other way around: we have a much larger number of smaller fat cells,” Ben-Dor said.

HUNTING EXPERTS

In addition to the evidence they collected by studying human biology, the researchers said archeological evidence from the Pleistocene period supports their theory.

In one example, the study’s authors examined stable isotopes in the bones of prehistoric humans as well as their hunting practices and concluded these early humans specialized in hunting large and medium-sized animals with high fat content.

“Comparing humans to large social predators of today, all of whom hunt large animals and obtain more than 70% of their energy from animal sources, reinforced the conclusion that humans specialized in hunting large animals and were in fact hypercarnivores,” the academics noted.

Ben-Dor said Stone-Age humans’ expertise in hunting large animals played a major role in the extinction of certain large animals, such as mammoths, mastodons, and giant sloths.

“Most probably, like in current-day predators, hunting itself was a focal human activity throughout most of human evolution. Other archeological evidence – like the fact that specialized tools for obtaining and processing vegetable foods only appeared in the later stages of human evolution – also supports the centrality of large animals in the human diet, throughout most of human history,” he said.

This is not to say, however, that humans during this period didn’t eat any plants. Ben-Dor said they also consumed plants, but they weren’t a major component of their diet until the end of the era when the decline of animal food sources led humans to increase their vegetable intake.

Eventually, the researchers said humans had no choice but to domesticate both plants and animals and become farmers.

Ran Barkai, one of the study’s authors and a professor at Tel Aviv University, said their findings have modern-day implications.

“For many people today, the Paleolithic diet is a critical issue, not only with regard to the past, but also concerning the present and future. It is hard to convince a devout vegetarian that his/her ancestors were not vegetarians, and people tend to confuse personal beliefs with scientific reality,” he said. 

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Marimaca Copper: First Drill Hole Intersects Broad Zone of Sulphide Copper Mineralization at Marimaca – Junior Mining Network

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia, April 07, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Marimaca Copper Corp. (“Marimaca Copper” or the “Company”) (TSX: MARI) is pleased to announce the assay results of the first drill hole of a five-hole program targeting extensions of sulphide mineralization below the Company’s flagship Marimaca Oxide Deposit (“MOD”). Drilling encountered a broad zone of chalcopyrite and minor chalcocite, indicating potential for economic sulphide mineralization.

Highlights

  • Drill hole MAR-125 intersected 116m (expected approximate true width) at an average grade of 0.51% CuT from 162m, including two higher grade zones of:
    • 20m with an average grade of 0.77% CuT from 162m; and
    • 42m with an average grade of 0.92% CuT from 236m.
  • Intersection represents a significantly broader zone of mineralization than anticipated from earlier, nearby, sulphide drilling intersections
  • First drill hole of an initial five-hole campaign to test for extensions of mineralization at depth
    • First hole designed to extend mineralization closer to sulphide zones identified in historical drilling
    • Remaining four holes designed to test the limits of mineralization with step outs of approximately 300m at depth and between 400m and 700m along strike to the north and south of the first hole
  • Sulphide drilling to be completed shortly, with assay results on remaining holes expected by the end of April 2021
  • In response to escalating COVID situation in Chile, the Company has initiated a break in drilling which is not expected to impact the original target of testing all identified targets by the end of 1H 2021.

Sergio Rivera, VP Exploration of Marimaca Copper, commented:

“The results of the first hole of this initial campaign are extremely pleasing, exceeding both the widths and grades we had projected for this zone based on earlier drilling completed nearby. The broad intercept of chalcopyrite mineralization shows good continuity downhole, with potentially economic grades, especially at the bottom of the intercept.

“The drilling has also provided additional geological information, which we are using to refine our understanding of the controls of mineralization and to inform future drillhole locations, targeting mineralized extensions at depth and along strike.

“The next four holes are significant step outs from the known mineralized zones outside of the Mineral Resource Estimate area and are designed to test the limits of the mineralized body, both at depth and along strike. The second hole will be collared approximately 350m to the east of MAR-125, targeting mineralization up to 300m below the current deepest mineralization. The third, fourth and fifth holes will be located between 400m and 700m to the north and south of MAR-125, aiming to test for extensions along strike.

“This first hole has provided encouragement that there is potential for economically interesting sulphide mineralization at Marimaca, while the next four drill holes are designed to better delineate the tonnage potential of this.”

Discussion of Campaign Objectives and Results

The current five-hole drilling campaign at the Marimaca Copper Project is designed to test for extensions to mineralization below the MOD. Based on the structural controls of the mineralization, the results of previous geophysical campaigns and earlier drilling, which extended beyond the current Mineral Resource Estimate (“MRE”) area, the Company believes there is the potential for extensions of the mineralized body at depth across the full strike length of the MOD. All drill holes will be drilled at an azimuth of 270o and at -60o, roughly perpendicular to the north-south striking, easterly dipping mineralizing structures. Intercepts should, therefore, be relatively close to the true width of the mineralization.

The first drill hole (MAR-125) encountered a broad zone of dominantly chalcopyrite mineralization with some pyrite and minor chalcocite over a down hole width (expected to be equivalent to approximate true width) of 116m with an average grade of 0.51% CuT. This includes two zones of higher-grade mineralization including 20m with an average grade of 0.77% CuT and 42m with an average grade of 0.92% CuT at the end of the mineralized intercept. The hole was collared to test mineralization approximately 100m to the east of the earlier hole ATR-82, which intersected 44m of sulphide copper mineralization with an average grade of 1.05% CuT, and 200m and 300m east of holes ATR-93 and ATR-94 respectively, which both intersected mineralization with true widths of around 40m with average grades above 1.0% CuT. MAR-125 has demonstrated an extension to this higher-grade mineralization and provides further areas to target for follow up drilling.

MAR-125 is located in the center of the current MRE area, proximal to a zone of relatively high-grade sulphide mineralization intercepted in several drill holes over widths of between 30m and 50m. The remaining four drill holes have been located to test the limits of the mineralization by stepping out significantly at depth and along strike beyond the current MRE area. The collar of the second hole, MAS-03, is located approximately 100m to the south and 350m to the east of MAR-125 and is aimed to intersect mineralization approximately 300m below MAR-125. MAS-02 and MAS-04, located approximately 400m and 700m, respectively, south of MAR-125, and are planned as significant step outs along strike, targeting the conductivity high noted in the IP survey completed across the MOD

Figure 2

Sampling and Assay Protocol

True widths cannot be determined with the information available at this time. Marimaca Copper RC holes were sampled on a 2-metre continuous basis, with dry samples riffle split on site and one quarter sent to the Andes Analytical Assay preparation laboratory in Calama and the pulps then sent to the same company laboratory in Santiago for assaying. A second quarter was stored on site for reference. Samples were prepared using the following standard protocol: drying; crushing to better than 85% passing -10#; homogenizing; splitting; pulverizing a 500-700g subsample to 95% passing -150#; and a 125g split of this sent for assaying. All samples were assayed for CuT (total copper), CuS (acid soluble copper) by AAS. A full QA/QC program, involving insertion of appropriate blanks, standards and duplicates was employed with acceptable results. Pulps and sample rejects are stored by Marimaca Copper for future reference.

Qualified Person

The technical information in this news release, including the information that relates to geology, drilling and mineralization was prepared under the supervision of, or has been reviewed by Sergio Rivera, Vice President of Exploration, Marimaca Copper Corp, a geologist with more than 36 years of experience and a member of the Colegio de Geólogos de Chile and of the Institute of Mining Engineers of Chile, and who is the Qualified Person for the purposes of NI 43-101 responsible for the design and execution of the drilling program.

Mr. Rivera confirms that he has visited the Marimaca Project on numerous occasions, is responsible for the information contained in this news release and consents to its publication.

Contact Information
For further information please visit www.marimaca.com or contact:

Tavistock
+44 (0) 207 920 3150
Jos Simson/Emily Moss 
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Forward Looking Statements

This news release includes certain “forward-looking statements” under applicable Canadian securities legislation. These statements relate to future events or the Company’s future performance, business prospects or opportunities. Forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, the impact of a rebranding of the Company, the future development and exploration potential of the Marimaca Project. Actual future results may differ materially. There can be no assurance that such statements will prove to be accurate, and actual results and future events could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements. Forward-looking statements reflect the beliefs, opinions and projections on the date the statements are made and are based upon a number of assumptions and estimates that, while considered reasonable by Marimaca Copper, are inherently subject to significant business, economic, competitive, political and social uncertainties and contingencies. Many factors, both known and unknown, could cause actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from the results, performance or achievements that are or may be expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements and the parties have made assumptions and estimates based on or related to many of these factors. Such factors include, without limitation: risks related to share price and market conditions, the inherent risks involved in the mining, exploration and development of mineral properties, the uncertainties involved in interpreting drilling results and other geological data, fluctuating metal prices, the possibility of project delays or cost overruns or unanticipated excessive operating costs and expenses, uncertainties related to the necessity of financing, the availability of and costs of financing needed in the future as well as those factors disclosed in the Company’s documents filed from time to time with the securities regulators in the Provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador. Accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements. Marimaca Copper undertakes no obligation to update publicly or otherwise revise any forward-looking statements contained herein whether as a result of new information or future events or otherwise, except as may be required by law.


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Hubble Spots Double Quasars in Merging Galaxies – HubbleSite

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Research Box Title

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is “seeing double.” Peering back 10 billion years into the universe’s past, Hubble astronomers found a pair of quasars that are so close to each other they look like a single object in ground-based telescopic photos, but not in Hubble’s crisp view.

The researchers believe the quasars are very close to each other because they reside in the cores of two merging galaxies. The team went on to win the “daily double” by finding yet another quasar pair in another colliding galaxy duo.

A quasar is a brilliant beacon of intense light from the center of a distant galaxy that can outshine the entire galaxy. It is powered by a supermassive black hole voraciously feeding on inflating matter, unleashing a torrent of radiation.

“We estimate that in the distant universe, for every 1,000 quasars, there is one double quasar. So finding these double quasars is like finding a needle in a haystack,” said lead researcher Yue Shen of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The discovery of these four quasars offers a new way to probe collisions among galaxies and the merging of supermassive black holes in the early universe, researchers say.

Quasars are scattered all across the sky and were most abundant 10 billion years ago. There were a lot of galaxy mergers back then feeding the black holes. Therefore, astronomers theorize there should have been many dual quasars during that time.

“This truly is the first sample of dual quasars at the peak epoch of galaxy formation with which we can use to probe ideas about how supermassive black holes come together to eventually form a binary,” said research team member Nadia Zakamska of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

The team’s results appeared in the April 1 online issue of the journal Nature Astronomy.

Shen and Zakamska are members of a team that is using Hubble, the European Space Agency’s Gaia space observatory, and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, as well as several ground-based telescopes, to compile a robust census of quasar pairs in the early universe.

The observations are important because a quasar’s role in galactic encounters plays a critical part in galaxy formation, the researchers say. As two close galaxies begin to distort each other gravitationally, their interaction funnels material into their respective black holes, igniting their quasars.

Over time, radiation from these high-intensity “light bulbs” launch powerful galactic winds, which sweep out most of the gas from the merging galaxies. Deprived of gas, star formation ceases, and the galaxies evolve into elliptical galaxies.

“Quasars make a profound impact on galaxy formation in the universe,” Zakamska said. “Finding dual quasars at this early epoch is important because we can now test our long-standing ideas of how black holes and their host galaxies evolve together.”

Astronomers have discovered more than 100 double quasars in merging galaxies so far. However, none of them is as old as the two double quasars in this study.

The Hubble images show that quasars within each pair are only about 10,000 light-years apart. By comparison, our Sun is 26,000 light-years from the supermassive black hole in the center of our galaxy.

The pairs of host galaxies will eventually merge, and then the quasars also will coalesce, resulting in an even more massive, single solitary black hole.

Finding them wasn’t easy. Hubble is the only telescope with vision sharp enough to peer back to the early universe and distinguish two close quasars that are so far away from Earth. However, Hubble’s sharp resolution alone isn’t good enough to find these dual light beacons.

Astronomers first needed to figure out where to point Hubble to study them. The challenge is that the sky is blanketed with a tapestry of ancient quasars that flared to life 10 billion years ago, only a tiny fraction of which are dual. It took an imaginative and innovative technique that required the help of the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite and the ground-based Sloan Digital Sky Survey to compile a group of potential candidates for Hubble to observe.

Located at Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico, the Sloan telescope produces three-dimensional maps of objects throughout the sky. The team poured through the Sloan survey to identify the quasars to study more closely.

The researchers then enlisted the Gaia observatory to help pinpoint potential double-quasar candidates. Gaia measures the positions, distances, and motions of nearby celestial objects very precisely. But the team devised a new, innovative application for Gaia that could be used for exploring the distant universe. They used the observatory’s database to search for quasars that mimic the apparent motion of nearby stars. The quasars appear as single objects in the Gaia data. However, Gaia can pick up a subtle, unexpected “jiggle” in the apparent position of some of the quasars it observes.

The quasars aren’t moving through space in any measurable way, but instead their jiggle could be evidence of random fluctuations of light as each member of the quasar pair varies in brightness. Quasars flicker in brightness on timescales of days to months, depending on their black hole’s feeding schedule.

This alternating brightness between the quasar pair is similar to seeing a railroad crossing signal from a distance. As the lights on both sides of the stationary signal alternately flash, the sign gives the illusion of “jiggling.”

When the first four targets were observed with Hubble, its crisp vision revealed that two of the targets are two close pairs of quasars. The researchers said it was a “light bulb moment” that verified their plan of using Sloan, Gaia, and Hubble to hunt for the ancient, elusive double powerhouses.

Team member Xin Liu of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign called the Hubble confirmation a “happy surprise.” She has long hunted for double quasars closer to Earth using different techniques with ground-based telescopes. “The new technique can not only discover dual quasars much further away, but it is much more efficient than the methods we’ve used before,” she said.

Their Nature Astronomy article is a “proof of concept that really demonstrates that our targeted search for dual quasars is very efficient,” said team member Hsiang-Chih Hwang, a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University and the principal investigator of the Hubble program. “It opens a new direction where we can accumulate a lot more interesting systems to follow up, which astronomers weren’t able to do with previous techniques or datasets.”

The team also obtained follow-up observations with the National Science Foundation NOIRLab’s Gemini telescopes. “Gemini’s spatially-resolved spectroscopy can unambiguously reject interlopers due to chance superpositions from unassociated star-quasar systems, where the foreground star is coincidentally aligned with the background quasar,” said team member Yu-Ching Chen, a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Although the team is convinced of their result, they say there is a slight chance that the Hubble snapshots captured double images of the same quasar, an illusion caused by gravitational lensing. This phenomenon occurs when the gravity of a massive foreground galaxy splits and amplifies the light from the background quasar into two mirror images. However, the researchers think this scenario is highly unlikely because Hubble did not detect any foreground galaxies near the two quasar pairs.

Galactic mergers were more plentiful billions of years ago, but a few are still happening today. One example is NGC 6240, a nearby system of merging galaxies that has two and possibly even three supermassive black holes. An even closer galactic merger will occur in a few billion years when our Milky Way galaxy collides with neighboring Andromeda galaxy. The galactic tussle would likely feed the supermassive black holes in the core of each galaxy, igniting them as quasars.

Future telescopes may offer more insight into these merging systems. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, an infrared observatory scheduled to launch later this year, will probe the quasars’ host galaxies. Webb will show the signatures of galactic mergers, such as the distribution of starlight and the long streamers of gas pulled from the interacting galaxies.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington, D.C.

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