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CARLOS CLARIVAN / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY CARLOS CLARIVAN / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Diagram of the nuclear composition, electron configuration, and valence orbitals of an atom of sodium-23 (atomic number: 11), the most common isotope of the element sodium. The nucleus consists of 11 protons (blue) and 12 neutrons (red). The stability of an element's outer (valence) electrons determines its chemical and physical properties. Sodium is an alkali metal in group 1, period 3, and the s-block of the periodic table. In elemental form, it is a soft reactive metal that is slightly less dense than water, melting at 98 degrees Celsius.
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