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Astronomers Spot Oldest Known Star

FILE - This artist's rendition provided by NASA shows the Kepler space telescope.

An international team of astronomers has discovered the oldest known star in the universe, and it's more than twice the age of our solar system.

The star is orbited by five planets, with sizes comparable to those of Mercury and Venus, but the scientists say they are too near their sun to permit habitation.

Writing in the latest Astrophysical Journal, the scientists reported that the solar system most likely dates from a time near the dawn of the universe 13.8 billion years ago.

The astronomers believe the newly discovered solar system began 11.2 billion years ago. By comparison, our solar system is about 4.5 billion years old.

The discovery was made using the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Kepler planet-hunting spacecraft over a four-year period, and the new star, in the constellation Lyre, has been named Kepler-444.

According to the scientists, Kepler-444's planets orbit their star in less than 10 days, at less than one-tenth of the Earth's distance from the sun.

The team included astronomers from Europe, Australia and the United States.