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Why are there fixed electron orbitals?

  1. Oct 8, 2013 #1
    I'm not sure if this question even has an answer, but I've been studying the interaction of photons with electrons in atoms and a lot of other things and the underlying thing I don't understand is why electron orbitals exist in specific shapes (probably delves into quantum mechanics). For instance, why can you say with absolute certainty that the electron is not just outside the orbital, what makes the orbital the area of probability. Also, does a specific orbital correspond to a specific energy level always or can different orbitals of the same type on different atoms contain electrons with different energy levels, and if they can't does this directly relate to that orbital's shape/position relative to nucleus?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 8, 2013 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    It is pure quantum mechanics, there is no way to get this with classical physics.
    There is no "outside the orbital", just regions where the probability to find the electron is very small.

    If everything else is the same (same isotope, same number of other electrons in the same energy levels), the orbitals and energy levels for an electron are always the same.

    If the atom is different, the orbitals and energy levels will be different. They can look similar, but they are not the same.

    I moved this to atomic physics.
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