The chemically most primitive stars provide constraints on the nature of the first stellar objects that formed in the Universe; elements other than hydrogen, helium and traces of lithium present within these objects were generated by nucleosynthesis in the very first stars. The relative abundances of elements in the surviving primitive stars reflect the masses of the first stars, because the pathways of nucleosynthesis are quite sensitive to stellar masses. Several models1,2,3,4,5 have been suggested to explain the origin of the abundance pattern of the giant star HE0107–5240, which hitherto exhibited the highest deficiency of heavy elements known1,6. Here we report the discovery of HE1327–2326, a subgiant or main-sequence star with an iron abundance about a factor of two lower than that of HE0107–5240. Both stars show extreme overabundances of carbon and nitrogen with respect to iron, suggesting a similar origin of the abundance patterns. The unexpectedly low Li and high Sr abundances of HE1327–2326, however, challenge existing theoretical understanding: no model predicts the high Sr abundance or provides a Li depletion mechanism consistent with data available for the most metal-poor stars.

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We thank A. Steinhauer and C. Thom for obtaining additional observations, N. Iwamoto, K. Maeda, T. Suda, N. Tominaga and H. Umeda for valuable discussions and L. Wisotzki and D. Reimers for leading the HES. This work was supported by the Astronomical Society of Australia (A.F.), Australian Research Council (M.A., A.F., J.E.N.), Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Japan and JSPS (all Japanese co-authors), Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (N.C.), Swedish Research Council (P.S.B., K.E.), US National Science Foundation (T.C.B.) and JINA (T.C.B., N.C., A.F., J.E.N.). This work is based on data collected at the Subaru Telescope, which is operated by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

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  1. Research School of Astronomy & Astrophysics, The Australian National University, Cotter Road, Weston Creek, Australian Capital Territory 2611, Australia

    • Anna Frebel
    • , Martin Asplund
    •  & John E. Norris
  2. National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, 2-21-1, Osawa, Mitaka, Tokyo 181-8588, Japan

    • Wako Aoki
    • , Norbert Christlieb
    • , Hiroyasu Ando
    • , Satoshi Honda
    •  & Toshitaka Kajino
  3. Hamburger Sternwarte, Gojenbergsweg 112, 21029 Hamburg, Germany

    • Norbert Christlieb
    •  & Cora Fechner
  4. Department of Physics and Space Sciences, Uppsala Astronomical Observatory, Box 515, SE-751 20 Uppsala, Sweden

    • Paul S. Barklem
    •  & Kjell Eriksson
  5. Department of Physics and Astronomy, and Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics (JINA), Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, USA

    • Timothy C. Beers
  6. Department of Physics, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0810, Japan

    • Masayuki Y. Fujimoto
  7. Institute of Astronomy, School of Science, University of Tokyo, Mitaka, Tokyo 181-0015, Japan

    • Takeo Minezaki
    •  & Yuzuru Yoshii
  8. Department of Astronomy, School of Science, University of Tokyo, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan

    • Ken'ichi Nomoto
  9. Department of Physics and Astronomy, Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK

    • Sean G. Ryan
    •  & Stelios Tsangarides
  10. Liberal Arts Education Center, Tokai University, 1117 Kitakaname, Hiratsuka-shi, Kanagawa 259-1292, Japan

    • Masahide Takada-Hidai


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The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Anna Frebel.

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