British scientists have discovered a star they say is bigger and brighter than any they have ever seen.

The star, known as R136a1, once weighed more than 320 times the weight of our sun.  Today, the star weighs 265 times the sun and shines nearly 10 million times brighter.  It also is seven times hotter than the sun.  

The giant ball of brightly burning gas was found 165,000 light years away, in a star cluster of the Tarantula Nebula -- a large cloud of gas and dust moving through a neighboring galaxy.

One of the scientists, astrophysicist Paul Crowther, says stars are "born heavy and lose weight as they age."

Stars like R136a1 are so bright and put out so much energy that it shortens their life span.  Also, the cluster of stars they often reside in makes them very difficult to spot.

The findings were published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.