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Atomic orbital

Atomic orbitals are the quantum states of the individual electrons in the electron cloud around a single atom.

Specifically, atomic orbitals are the quantum states of the individual electrons in the electron cloud around a single atom.

Classically, the electrons were thought to orbit the atomic nucleus, much like the planets around the Sun (or more accurately, a moth orbiting very quickly around a lamp).

However electrons cannot be described as solid particles (as a planet or a moth), so a more accurate comparison would be that of a (huge) atmosphere (the spatially distributed electron) around a (tiny) planet (the nucleus).

Note:   The above text is excerpted from the Wikipedia article "Atomic orbital", which has been released under the GNU Free Documentation License.
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July 7, 2015

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