The very first stars to light up the universe — also known as Population III stars — are widely presumed to have been giants, hundreds of times heftier than the Sun. But a recently discovered puny star in our Galaxy might be an ancient specimen that shows how the first stellar generation could have contained some runts that still live among us today.

The star in question, estimated to be about 13.5 billion years old, contains very few elements heavier than helium, a sign that it was born during a much more pristine epoch before other stars got around to forging atoms such as carbon, oxygen, and iron and spewing them into space.

That’s not terrible surprising, astronomers know of a couple dozen stars that have similar abundances of elements.

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