The Sun is the star at the center of Earth's Solar System. The Sun has a diameter of about 1,392,000 kilometers (865,000 mi) (about 109 Earths). Its mass (about 2 × 10 30th power kilograms, 330,000 times that of Earth) and by itself accounts for about 99.86% of the Solar System's mass; the remainder consists of the planets (including Earth), asteroids, meteoroids, comets, and dust in orbit. About three-quarters of the Sun's mass consists of hydrogen, while most of the rest is helium. Less than 2% consists of other elements, including iron, oxygen, carbon, neon, and others.
The Sun's color is white, although from the surface of the Earth it may appear yellow because of atmospheric scattering. Its stellar classification, based on spectral class, is G2V, and is informally designated a yellow star, because the majority of its radiation is in the yellow-green portion of the visible spectrum. In this spectral class label, G2 indicates its surface temperature of approximately 5,778 K (5,505 °C), and V (Roman five) indicates that the Sun, like most stars, is a main sequence star, and thus generates its energy by nuclear fusion of hydrogen nuclei into helium.
Once regarded by astronomers as a small and relatively insignificant star, the Sun is now presumed to be brighter than about 85% of the stars in the Milky Way galaxy, most of which are red dwarfs. The absolute magnitude of the Sun is +4.83; however, as the star closest to Earth, the Sun is the brightest object in the sky with an apparent magnitude of –26.74. The Sun's hot corona continuously expands in space creating the solar wind, a hypersonic stream of charged particles that extends to the heliopause at roughly 100 AU. The bubble in the interstellar medium formed by the solar wind, the heliosphere, is the largest continuous structure in the Solar System.
The Sun is currently traveling through the Local Interstellar Cloud in the Local Bubble zone, within the inner rim of the Orion Arm of the Milky Way galaxy. Of the 50 nearest stellar systems within 17 light-years from Earth, the Sun ranks 4th in mass. The Sun orbits the center of the Milky Way at a distance of approximately 24,000–26,000 light years from the galactic center, completing one clockwise orbit, as viewed from the galactic north pole, in about 225–250 million years.
The mean distance of the Sun from the Earth is approximately 149.6 million kilometers (1 AU), though this varies as the Earth moves from perihelion in January to aphelion in July. At this average distance, light travels from the Sun to Earth in about 8 minutes and 19 seconds. The energy of this sunlight supports almost all life on Earth by photosynthesis, and drives Earth's climate and weather. The enormous effect of the Sun on the Earth has been recognized since pre-historic times, and the Sun has been regarded by some cultures as a deity. An accurate scientific understanding of the Sun developed slowly, and as recently as the 19th century prominent scientists had little knowledge of the Sun's physical composition and source of energy. This understanding is still developing; there are a number of present-day anomalies in the Sun's behavior that remain unexplained.