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Orbital Conceptual Question

Posted: Wed Oct 16, 2019 9:25 pm
by Hussain Chharawalla 1G
Hello everyone,

I had a conceptual question about the orbitals. From what I understand, orbitals are mathematical models that show where an electron is most likely to be found. However, I am confused about a few things.

1. A s orbital is a sphere that encloses around the nucleus. According to the definition of the orbital above, does this mean that an electron is likely to be found near/inside the nucleus? This does not make sense to me because we went over how this is not true in lecture, but it seems as if the orbital includes the nucleus as well.

2. It appears that there is some overlap between the orbitals. For example, the p orbitals or s orbital of a second energy shell may well overlap with the s orbital of the first shell. According to the same definition, if an electron has a probability of being found anywhere within the orbital, I'm confused how we can truly differentiate as to which shell the electron is really in.

I apologize if these questions are slightly confusing. I might be thinking about this the wrong way. Just trying to get some clarifications.

Re: Orbital Conceptual Question

Posted: Wed Oct 16, 2019 10:28 pm
by Rida Ismail 2E
1. no electrons can be inside the nucleus. it is not possible. So the sphere only refers to the space around the nucleus. And yes, the orbital is the place in which that electron in its ground state would be found. There is no way to pinpoint the exact location, but this gives a very good estimate of all the places the e- could be.

2. the orbitals are placed on top of each other in an increasing fashion. So the 1s is a smaller sphere than 2s and so on. This is the same for all orbitals. As the number of e- increases, the number of orbitals increases and therefore the size of the orbitals increase as well. They don't necessarily overlap per se because e- can only go in their designated orbital space.

I hope that clarifies some things.