A quark is an elementary particle and a fundamental constituent of matter. Quarks combine to form composite particles called hadrons, the most stable of which are protons and neutrons, the components of atomic nuclei. Due to a phenomenon known as color confinement, quarks are never found in isolation; they can only be found within hadrons. For this reason, much of what is known about quarks has been drawn from observations of the hadrons themselves.
There are six types of quarks, known as flavors: up, down, charm, strange, top, and bottom. Up and down quarks have the lowest masses of all quarks. The heavier quarks rapidly change into up and down quarks through a process of particle decay: the transformation from a higher mass state to a lower mass state. Because of this, up and down quarks are generally stable and the most common in the universe, whereas charm, strange, top, and bottom quarks can only be produced in high energy collisions (such as those involving cosmic rays and in particle accelerators).