Difference Between Orbit and Orbital
Orbit vs Orbital
In atomic theory, these two similar-sounding terms “orbit” and “orbital” often confuse people. You must have seen in pictures that an atom is a simple, solar-system-like structure in which electrons are like our planets revolving around a nucleus which may be considered as our sun. Actually, the truth is much more complex. Orbits and orbital are different paths of atoms.
In our solar system, the paths on which the planets revolve are called orbits. These are strange elliptical paths which are fixed for every single planet, and these planets move on this path with their angular velocities and central acceleration. The same is the case with atoms. Orbits are the fixed paths around which electrons revolve around the nucleus of the atom following the same principle as that of the planets.
An orbit is a planar or two-dimensional circular pathway. The maximum number of electrons in a particular orbit is 2n2 . An orbit follows Newton’s laws of motion. In atomic theory, an orbit is created because of the pull of the negatively charged electron to the positively charged nucleus while having the same angular velocity. But as Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle proves it as uncertain, we cannot easily determine the exact orbit of an electron.
If you think that one can tell the exact position of electrons at a certain time, you are actually wrong. According to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle:
“One can never know with perfect accuracy both of those two important factors which determine the movement of one of the smallest particles (electrons)—its position and its velocity. It is impossible to determine accurately both the position and the direction and speed of a particle or electron at the same instant.”
So an orbital is an uncertain area inside an atom within which the probability to find an electron(s) is highest. It represents the three-dimensional space around the nucleus. Orbitals occur in various shapes and capacities in accordance with the element and its atomic number. They are categorized as s, p, d and f type orbital. The maximum capacities of these orbital are:
s orbital – 2 electrons
p orbital – 6 electrons
d orbital – 10 electrons
f orbital – 16 electrons
1.An orbit is a fixed path around a heavy object on which a lighter object moves due to gravitational forces or electromagnetic forces while an orbital is an uncertain area around the nucleus of an atom in which the probability of finding an electron is maximum.
2.An orbit exists for any two bodies having some mass whereas an orbital exists only for an atom and an electron.
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