Scientists find one of the most ancient stars that formed in another galaxy | Science & Technology

The first generation of stars transformed the universe. Inside their cores, simple hydrogen and helium fused into a rainbow of elements. When these stars died, they exploded and sent these new elements across the universe. The iron running in your veins and the calcium in your teeth and the sodium powering your thoughts were all born in the heart of a long-dead star.

No one has been able to find one of those first generation of stars, but scientists have announced a unique finding: a star from the second generation that originally formed in a different galaxy from ours.

“This star provides a unique window into the very early element-forming process in galaxies other than our own,” said Anirudh Chiti, a University of Chicago postdoctoral fellow and first author on a paper announcing the findings. “We have built up an idea of the how these stars that were chemically enriched by the first stars look like in the Milky Way, but we don’t yet know if some of these signatures are unique, or if things happened similarly across other galaxies.”

The paper was published March 20 in Nature Astronomy.

‘Fishing needles out of haystacks’

Chiti specializes in what is called stellar archaeology: Reconstructing how the earliest generations of stars changed the universe. “We want to understand what the properties of those first stars were and what were the elements they produced,” said Chiti.

But no one has yet managed to directly see these first-generation stars, if any remain in the universe. Instead, Chiti and his colleagues look for stars that formed from the ashes of that first generation.

It’s hard work, because even the second generation of stars is now incredibly ancient and rare. Most stars in the universe, including our own sun, are the result of tens to thousands of generations, building up more and more heavy elements each time. “Maybe fewer than 1 in 100,000 stars in the Milky Way is one of these second-gen stars,” he said. “You really are fishing needles out of…

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