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Visualizing the atom

  1. Sep 14, 2006 #1
    I know that the atom cannot be seen. May be the exterior of a few
    large atoms. I know that the inside of an atom cannot be seen. But I
    would like to find a way to visualize an atom. How can I visualize the
    inside of an atom?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 14, 2006 #2
    Which atom do want to visualise? If the hydrogen atom, then look up the radial wavefunctions for the H atom (http://webphysics.davidson.edu/physletprob/ch10_modern/radial.html), and the spherical harmonics.

    The products of these functions will tell you the probability distributions of the electron in the atom, when it has a known definite energy.
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2006
  4. Sep 14, 2006 #3
  5. Sep 14, 2006 #4
    Here is silicon--electron orbitals:
    Here is oxygen, color differences imply internal structure:http://images.google.com/imgres?img...f+neutron+inside+atom&svnum=10&hl=en&lr=&sa=G
    I like the image model of neon in this link--it shows the importance of electron orbitals:http://images.google.com/imgres?img...tom&start=120&ndsp=20&svnum=10&hl=en&lr=&sa=N
    Here is a time line of when various internal parts of the atom where discovered--not much action in the past decade:http://lappweb.in2p3.fr/vulgarisation/initour/Images/timeline.gif
  6. Sep 14, 2006 #5
    I'm sorry: I pasted it in wrong. A quick google search for hydrogen atom wavefunctions, gives the correct link:


    If you're not sure what the [itex]n, l, m[/itex] quantum numbers mean, take a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_atom#Mathematical_summary_of_eigenstates_of_hydrogen_atom. This shows the functions that are solutions of the energy-eigenvalue equation: i.e. these functions squared represent the probability distribution of the electron with a known energy [itex]E_n.[/itex]
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2006
  7. Sep 14, 2006 #6


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    It may show orbitals well, but the surrounding text is terribly misleading.

    "The number of electrons located outside the nucleus of an atom is always the same as the number of protons. An atom with seven protons in its nucleus (no matter how many neutrons) also has seven electrons outside the nucleus. Those electrons travel in paths around the nucleus somewhat similar to the orbits followed by planets around the Sun."
  8. Sep 14, 2006 #7


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    You can say that again. :rolleyes: That entire page is just so completely wrong - heck, they weren't even careful enough to get the opening sentence right!!

    Here's a site I think is neat: http://winter.group.shef.ac.uk/orbitron/
  9. Sep 15, 2006 #8


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    It may show orbitals well, but the surrounding text is terribly misleading.:biggrin:
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