Scientists Say: Quark

The members of this family of subatomic particles come in six ‘flavors’

In this tunnel, large magnets form a ring that’s 27 kilometers (16.8 miles) in circumference. The magnets speed up hadrons, particles made of quarks, so scientists can study what happens when they collide. This particle accelerator is called the Large Hadron Collider. It sits beneath the border between France and Switzerland.

CERN (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Quark (noun, “KWARK”)

This is a type of subatomic particle. Subatomic means “smaller than an atom.” Atoms are made up of protons, neutrons and electrons. Protons and neutrons are made of even smaller particles called quarks. Based on the evidence available today, physicists think that quarks are elementary particles. That means they aren’t made up of anything else.  

Protons have a positive electric charge. Electrons have a negative electric charge. Quarks have just a fraction of a positive or negative charge. Scientists have identified six different types, or “flavors,” of quarks. These flavors are up, down, charm, strange, top and bottom. They vary in their charge and mass. Down, strange and bottom are negatively charged, and up, charm and top are positively charged. Particles that contain quarks, like protons and neutrons, are known as hadrons.

In a sentence

Quarks usually come in pairs or triplets to make up a bigger particle, but scientists found one unusual quark quartet

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Carolyn Wilke is a staff writer at Science News for Students. She has a Ph.D. in environmental engineering. Carolyn enjoys writing about chemistry, microbes and the environment. She also loves playing with her cat.

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