DR MARK J. WINTER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DR MARK J. WINTER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
An electron orbital is a region around an atomic nucleus (not seen) in which one or a pair of electrons is most likely to exist. The three 2p orbitals have a bi- lobed shape centred on the nucleus. They are part of the 2 shell, which also contains a spherical, lower energy 2s orbital. In atoms, electrons fill the lower energy orbitals first. The 2s orbital is only filled when the lowest energy 1s orbital is full, and the 2p orbitals only when both 1s and 2s are full. The 1s and 2s orbitals can both hold a pair of electrons each, as can each 2p orbital. The 2p orbitals are thus full in element 10, neon. Neon's electron configuration is written 1s2 2s2 2p6.
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