The matter in the universe is subject to various forces, but the greatest force on the cosmological scale is gravitation. This force pulls matter together to form stars, which either exist alone or are part of binary star or multiple star systems, or brown dwarfs, which are also known as "failed stars." Gravitation also acts to group billions of stars into galaxies and to group galaxies into clusters and superclusters. The main source of energy in the universe is the conversion of the matter of the stars into energy through thermonuclear reactions (see nuclear energy). These reactions continue throughout the different stages of stellar evolution (see also stellar populations) until the star has consumed all its available nuclear fuel.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.