Humboldt State University ® Department of Chemistry

Richard A. Paselk


Atomic Orbitals Supplement


Sample Orbital Movies, n = 1-6*

Richard A. Paselk

The representative orbitals shown below show how the nodes increase with increasing n, giving increasingly complex substructure to the orbitals. Note that though the orbital images and movies are all about the same size, the actual orbitals grow significantly with increasing values of n, as shown for the s-orbitals below. Note that the radii of the sets of other orbitals will be similar.

s orbitals for hydrogen

The figure above shows scale drawings of the 90% probability spheres for the n = 1-6 s-orbitals for hydrogen.

The QuickTime movies for the n = 1-6 Orbitals range from 200-350 k

*For the d and f orbitals a single orbital shape was chosen to represent each set. Note that the other orbitals do not have the same shapes, since more than just the three orthogonal axis are involved in determining symmetry.
n  s p d* f*


Electronic Configurations of Atoms with Z > 1

Under normal earth conditions atoms are in their ground state configurations, that is the electrons all occupy the lowest energy orbitals available. Of course only two electrons of paired spin may occupy an orbital. And electrons "spread out" to occupy as many orbitals in each subshell (orbital type) as possible.

For atoms with multiple electrons we assume the orbitals will be similar to those of hydrogen, thus the term "hydrogenic orbitals" for these atoms. We use hydrogenic orbitals for atoms with Z > 1 because we cannot calculate exact solutions for the orbitals of atoms with more than one electron - mathematically exact solutions are possible for the "two-body problem" but not for the "three-body problem" or above. However, approximate solutions are consistent with the hydrogenic orbitals.

Thus for atoms above hydrogen:

*The animations and visualizations on these pages are copyrighted. They were created by Mervin P. Hanson, Richard L. Harper, Richard A. Paselk and John B. Russell from calculations performed by Mervin P. Hanson. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation, Apple Computer, and Humboldt State University.

© R A Paselk

Last modified 23 November 2004