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The Sun is a G-type main-sequence star (G2V) based on spectral class and is informally referred to as a yellow dwarf. It formed approximately 4.6 billion[a] years ago from the gravitational collapse of matter within a region of a large molecular cloud. Most of this matter gathered in the center, whereas the rest flattened into an orbiting disk that became the Solar System. The central mass became so hot and dense, that it eventually initiated nuclear fusion in its core. It is thought that almost all stars form by this process.
The Sun is roughly middle-aged and has not changed dramatically for over four billion[a] years, and will remain fairly stable for more than another five billion years. However, after hydrogen fusion in its core has stopped, the Sun will undergo severe changes and become a red giant. It is calculated that the Sun will become sufficiently large to engulf the current orbits of Mercury, Venus, and possibly Earth.
The enormous effect of the Sun on Earth has been recognized since prehistoric times, and the Sun has been regarded by some cultures as a deity. The synodic rotation of Earth and its orbit around the Sun are the basis of the solar calendar, which is the predominant calendar in use today.
The English proper noun Sun developed from Old English sunne and may be related to south. Cognates to English sun appear in other Germanic languages, including Old Frisian sunne, sonne, Old Saxon sunna, Middle Dutch sonne, modern Dutch zon, Old High German sunna, modern German Sonne, Old Norse sunna, and Gothic sunnō. All Germanic terms for the Sun stem from Proto-Germanic *sunnōn.
The English weekday name Sunday stems from Old English (Sunnandæg; ,,Sun's day", from before 700) and is ultimately a result of a Germanic interpretation of Latin dies solis, itself a translation of the Greek ἡμέρα ἡλίου (hēméra hēlíou). The Latin name for the Sun, Sol, is not common in general English language use; the adjectival form is the related word solar. The term sol is also used by planetary astronomers to refer to the duration of a solar day on another planet, such as Mars. A mean Earth solar day is approximately 24 hours, whereas a mean Martian 'sol' is 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35.244 seconds.
Solar deities and Sun worship can be found throughout most of recorded history in various forms, including the Egyptian Ra, the Hindu Surya, the Japanese Amaterasu, the Germanic Sól, and the Aztec Tonatiuh, among others.
From at least the 4th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, the Sun was worshipped as the god Ra, portrayed as a falcon-headed divinity surmounted by the solar disk, and surrounded by a serpent. In the New Empire period, the Sun became identified with the dung beetle, whose spherical ball of dung was identified with the Sun. In the form of the Sun disc Aten, the Sun had a brief resurgence during the Amarna Period when it again became the preeminent, if not only, divinity for the Pharaoh Akhenaton.
The Sun is viewed as a goddess in Germanic paganism, Sól/Sunna. Scholars theorize that the Sun, as a Germanic goddess, may represent an extension of an earlier Proto-Indo-European Sun deity because of Indo-European linguistic connections between Old Norse Sól, Sanskrit Surya, Gaulish Sulis, Lithuanian Saulė, and Slavic Solntse.
In ancient Roman culture, Sunday was the day of the Sun god. It was adopted as the Sabbath day by Christians who did not have a Jewish background. The symbol of light was a pagan device adopted by Christians, and perhaps the most important one that did not come from Jewish traditions. In paganism, the Sun was a source of life, giving warmth and illumination to mankind. It was the center of a popular cult among Romans, who would stand at dawn to catch the first rays of sunshine as they prayed. The celebration of the winter solstice (which influenced Christmas) was part of the Roman cult of the unconquered Sun (Sol Invictus). Christian churches were built with an orientation so that the congregation faced toward the sunrise in the East.
The Sun is a G-type main-sequence star that comprises about 99.86% of the mass of the Solar System. The Sun has an absolute magnitude of +4.83, estimated to be brighter than about 85% of the stars in the Milky Way, most of which are red dwarfs. The Sun is a Population I, or heavy-element-rich,[b] star. The formation of the Sun may have been triggered by shockwaves from one or more nearby supernovae. This is suggested by a high abundance of heavy elements in the Solar System, such as gold and uranium, relative to the abundances of these elements in so-called Population II, heavy-element-poor, stars. The heavy elements could most plausibly have been produced by endothermic nuclear reactions during a supernova, or by transmutation through neutron absorption within a massive second-generation star.
The Sun is by far the brightest object in the sky, with an apparent magnitude of −26.74. This is about 13 billion times brighter than the next brightest star, Sirius, which has an apparent magnitude of −1.46. The mean distance of the Sun's center to Earth's center is approximately 1 astronomical unit (about 150,000,000 km; 93,000,000 mi), though the distance varies as Earth moves from perihelion in January to aphelion in July. At this average distance, light travels from the Sun's horizon to Earth's horizon in about 8 minutes and 19 seconds, while light from the closest points of the Sun and Earth takes about two seconds less. The energy of this sunlight supports almost all life[c] on Earth by photosynthesis, and drives Earth's climate and weather.
The Sun does not have a definite boundary, and in its outer parts its density decreases exponentially with increasing distance from its center. For the purpose of measurement, however, the Sun's radius is considered to be the distance from its center to the edge of the photosphere, the apparent visible surface of the Sun. By this measure, the Sun is a near-perfect sphere with an oblateness estimated at about 9 millionths, which means that its polar diameter differs from its equatorial diameter by only 10 kilometres (6.2 mi). The tidal effect of the planets is weak and does not significantly affect the shape of the Sun. The Sun rotates faster at its equator than at its poles. This differential rotation is caused by convective motion due to heat transport and the Coriolis force due to the Sun's rotation. In a frame of reference defined by the stars, the rotational period is approximately 25.6 days at the equator and 33.5 days at the poles. Viewed from Earth as it orbits the Sun, the apparent rotational period of the Sun at its equator is about 28 days.
The solar constant is the amount of power that the Sun deposits per unit area that is directly exposed to sunlight. The solar constant is equal to approximately 1,368 W/m2 (watts per square meter) at a distance of one astronomical unit (AU) from the Sun (that is, on or near Earth). Sunlight on the surface of Earth is attenuated by Earth's atmosphere, so that less power arrives at the surface (closer to 1,000 W/m2) in clear conditions when the Sun is near the zenith. Sunlight at the top of Earth's atmosphere is composed (by total energy) of about 50% infrared light, 40% visible light, and 10% ultraviolet light. The atmosphere in particular filters out over 70% of solar ultraviolet, especially at the shorter wavelengths. Solar ultraviolet radiation ionizes Earth's dayside upper atmosphere, creating the electrically conducting ionosphere.
The Sun's color is white, with a CIE color-space index near (0.3, 0.3), when viewed from space or when the Sun is high in the sky. When measuring all the photons emitted, the Sun is actually emitting more photons in the green portion of the spectrum than any other. When the Sun is low in the sky, atmospheric scattering renders the Sun yellow, red, orange, or magenta. Despite its typical whiteness, most people mentally picture the Sun as yellow; the reasons for this are the subject of debate. The Sun is a G2V star, with G2 indicating its surface temperature of approximately 5,778 K (5,505 °C, 9,941 °F), and V that it, like most stars, is a main-sequence star. The average luminance of the Sun is about 1.88 giga candela per square metre, but as viewed through Earth's atmosphere, this is lowered to about 1.44 Gcd/m2.[d] However, the luminance is not constant across the disk of the Sun.