Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

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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  1. amazing!!!!!!all my confusion is now solved……..its all clear.Iam very happy now!!!as i’v got a assignment in college!!!!!!!……

  2. thanks… realy hlpd me alo8…gr8 ansr…

  3. thanks for the post it help me a lot :>

  4. Thanks, this article helped me out a lot. Just one thing though, the f orbital holds only 14 electrons.

  5. Yah f orbitals have 14 electrons not 16

  6. It’s very helpful … Help me alot
    14 Electron not 16 🙁

  7. poorly explained.. for several reasons.. Also, the f orbital can only hold 14 electrons.. not 16.. when stupid people think they’re right -__-

  8. It’s very helpful this article thanku very much…

  9. Thanku very much it’s very helpful this article

  10. Yah f orbital have 14 electrons not 16 electrons

  11. Are u crazy f have 7 oribtals and has ability to hang 14 electrons how could they handel 16

  12. its really helpful

  13. Thank u its realy very helpful for me and thanks for u r briefy notes

  14. Good explanation.
    Thank u

  15. Best explained

  16. It’s awesome………helped me a lot……..

  17. It is useful for the students who is at the confused state between orbits and orbitals

  18. Well, I did know the difference between them. It’s just hard to picture. An image would help.

  19. Very nice

  20. y’all stop insulting the person that wrote this. They only tried to share their knowledge. If you know soo much why did you come here disturbing somones peace of mind because of a typo.

  21. thanks for everything you have done in this.
    I have cleared all my doubts.

  22. Fantastic ! N best explained.

  23. Fantastic !

  24. Wow amazing problem solved now

  25. Do you know their difference on the basis of directional?

  26. Actually f orbital contains 14 electrons only.
    Still brief explanation is needed

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