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When an atom is in the ground state it means it is in its lowest electron shell and has not been excited to a higher energy level. The way to get it out of the ground state is to excite the atom with a photon or heat.
Ground State means that the atom is at its lowest possible energy state, and that the electrons in the atom cannot lose anymore energy. In contrast an excited state is when electrons go to a higher energy level or shift orbitals.
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