A PRIMITIVE galaxy that could provide clues about the early Universe has been spotted by astronomers as it starts to be consumed by a gigantic neighbour.

The Little Cub galaxy - which sits 50 million light years from Earth in the Ursa Major or Great Bear constellation - is being stripped of the gas needed to continue forming stars by its larger companion.

The find means scientists now have a rare opportunity to observe a dwarf galaxy as its gas is removed by the effects of a nearby giant.

As the Little Cub has remained almost pristine since its formation, scientists hope it will contain preserved hydrogen and helium atoms created just minutes after the Big Bang.

The research, carried out by the University of California Santa Cruz, and Durham University is being presented today to the Royal Astronomical Society.

Dr Ryan Cooke, from Durham University’s Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy, said: “It is one of the most primitive objects currently known in our cosmic neighbourhood.

“Such galaxies, which have remained dormant for most of their lives, are believed to contain the chemical elements forged a few minutes after the Big Bang”.