Question
Thu January 12, 2012 By:

Thu January 12, 2012
First, there are the main shells of the atom, and these are numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. (or like some doing it alphabetically K, L, M, N, ...).
In the periodic table you will encounter them as seven periods.

Each shell holds orbitals (sometimes called sub-shells, but they are not), and different shells have different numbers of orbitals associated with it. The higher the number of the main shell, the more orbitals it contains. In fact, the number of the main shell is equal to the number of orbitals it contains. The types of orbitals are labeled like this: s, p, d, f, and not so very important: g, h, i, etc (alphabetically after i).

So far we have:

Main shell #1

-- contains one orbital (s-orbital)

Main shell #2
-- contains two orbitals (s-orbital, and p-orbital)

Main shell #3
-- contains three orbitals (s-orbital, p-orbital, and d-orbital)

Main shell #4
-- contains four orbitals (s-orbital, p-orbital, d-orbital, and f-orbital)

etc...

Now we can further break down orbitals! The p-orbital is actually composed of three sub-orbitals and the d-orbital is composed of 5 sub-orbitals and f-orbital in 7 sub-orbitals.
So we have:

s-orbital: just a single orbital, called just the s-orbital

p-orbitals: composed of 3 sub-orbitals, called the px-, py-, and pz-orbitals

d-orbitals: composed of 5 sub-orbitals, called the dxy-, dxz-, dyz-, dx2-y2, and dz2-orbtials

f-orbitals: composed of 7 sub-orbitals, called fz3, fxz2, fyz2, fxyz, fy(3x2-y2), fx(x2-3y2), fy(3x2-y2).

etc...
When a planet moves around the sun, you can plot a definite path for it which is called an orbit.
To plot a path for something you need to know exactly where the object is and be able to work out exactly where it's going to be an instant later. You can't do this for electrons.
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