DISCOVERY OF RR LYRAE STARS IN THE NUCLEAR BULGE OF THE MILKY WAY
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Galactic nuclei, such as that of the Milky Way, are extreme regions with high stellar densities, and in most cases, the hosts of a supermassive black hole. One of the scenarios proposed for the formation of the Galactic nucleus is merging of primordial globular clusters. An implication of this model is that this region should host stars that are characteristically found in old Milky Way globular clusters. RR Lyrae stars are primary distance indicators, well known representatives of old and metal-poor stellar populations, and therefore are regularly found in globular clusters. Here we report the discovery of a dozen RR Lyrae type ab stars in the vicinity of the Galactic center, i.e., in the so-called nuclear stellar bulge of the Milky Way. This discovery provides the first direct observational evidence that the Galactic nuclear stellar bulge contains ancient stars (>10 Gyr old). Based on this we conclude that merging globular clusters likely contributed to the build-up of the high stellar density in the nuclear stellar bulge of the Milky Way.