Washington: In a discovery that supports the theory that the galaxy underwent a "cannibal" phase, astronomers have found a primitive star that may have been among the second generation of stars to form after the Big Bang.
The star, located in the dwarf galaxy Sculptor some 290,000 light-years away, has a remarkably similar chemical make-up to the Milky Way`s oldest stars.
Its presence supports the long held belief that our galaxy underwent a "cannibal" phase, growing to its current size by swallowing dwarf galaxies and other galactic building
blocks, the ScienceDaily reported.
"This star is likely almost as old as the universe itself," said astronomer Anna Frebel of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
Reporting their findings in the Nature journal, Frebel said dwarf galaxies are small galaxies with just a few billion stars, compared to hundreds of billions in the Milky Way.
In the "bottom-up model" of galaxy formation, large galaxies attained their size over billions of years by absorbing their smaller neighbours.
"If you watched a time-lapse movie of our galaxy, you would see a swarm of dwarf galaxies buzzing around it like bees around a beehive," explained Frebel.
"Over time, those galaxies smashed together and mingled their stars to make one large galaxy -- the Milky Way."