ROGER HARRIS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY ROGER HARRIS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Sodium atom. Diagram of an atom of the element sodium, showing its surrounding electron orbitals. Sodium is the 11th element, and has 11 protons (red) in its nucleus, along with 12 neutrons (blue). Sodium has 11 electrons, and each of its orbitals can hold a maximum of two. Orbitals are filled from the lowest energy (nearest the nucleus) first, so there are two electrons in the inner 1s orbital, and two in the higher energy 2s orbital (green spheres), and two each in the slightly higher energy 2p orbitals (blue, red and yellow). Outside the 2p orbitals is a spherical 3s shell, which contains the remaining electron. For clarity, solid lines show the paths of the electrons. In reality, electrons can be found anywhere, and the shape of each orbital is based only on where it is most likely to be found.
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