A stellar stream remnant of a globular cluster below the metallicity floor

Nicolas F. Martin*, Kim A. Venn, David S. Aguado, Else Starkenburg, Jonay I. González Hernández, Rodrigo A. Ibata, Piercarlo Bonifacio, Elisabetta Caffau, Federico Sestito, Anke Arentsen, Carlos Allende Prieto, Raymond G. Carlberg, Sébastien Fabbro, Morgan Fouesneau, Vanessa Hill, Pascale Jablonka, Georges Kordopatis, Carmela Lardo, Khyati Malhan, Lyudmila I. MashonkinaAlan W. McConnachie, Julio F. Navarro, Rubén Sánchez-Janssen, Guillaume F. Thomas, Zhen Yuan, Alessio Mucciarelli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


Stellar ejecta gradually enrich the gas out of which subsequent stars form, making the least chemically enriched stellar systems direct fossils of structures formed in the early Universe1. Although a few hundred stars with metal content below 1,000th of the solar iron content are known in the Galaxy2–4, none of them inhabit globular clusters, some of the oldest known stellar structures. These show metal content of at least approximately 0.2% of the solar metallicity ([Fe / H] ≳ − 2.7). This metallicity floor appears universal5,6, and it has been proposed that protogalaxies that merged into the galaxies we observe today were simply not massive enough to form clusters that survived to the present day7. Here we report observations of a stellar stream, C-19, whose metallicity is less than 0.05% of the solar metallicity ([Fe/H]=−3.38±0.06(statistical)±0.20(systematic)). The low metallicity dispersion and the chemical abundances of the C-19 stars show that this stream is the tidal remnant of the most metal-poor globular cluster ever discovered, and is significantly below the purported metallicity floor: clusters with significantly lower metallicities than observed today existed in the past and contributed their stars to the Milky Way halo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-48
Number of pages4
Issue number7891
Publication statusPublished - 6-Jan-2022

Cite this