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Questions you may have about atoms are:
Solar system model
The solar system model of the atom is that the atom is like a tiny solar system, with the nucleus in the center and electrons rotating around the nucleus in orbits, similar to how the planets rotate around the Sun. It is also called the Bohr model, after Neils Bohr, who discovered electron shells in 1913.
It is not certain whether the electrons actually rotate around the nucleus or if they stay in place, but it is more likely that they are in motion..
A newer model of the atom replaces the electrons as tiny particles in orbits with an electron cloud in shells around the nucleus. This model is due to the Uncertainly Principle and is useful in Quantum Mechanics.
The latest theory says that the electrons are neither particles or clouds. Instead, they say they are shaped like pieces of string. String Theory has just been stated in the past few years.
Will stick with old
Neither theory is easy to visualize, so for the most part we will stick with the older, solar system model. It answers most questions about the atom.
The nucleus consists of a number of positively charged protons and uncharged neutrons. They are approximately the same size and weight.
Since like charges repel, there is some sort of "nuclear glue" that holds the nucleus together. There must usually be more neutrons than protons for a nucleus to be stable, so it has been thought that neutrons had something to do with this nuclear glue. Present theories state that there is a sub-nuclear particle called a gluon that holds the nucleus together.
Possible nucleus configuration (protons are +)
To keep an atom electrically stable, it has the same number of negatively charged electrons in orbit around the nucleus as there are positively charged protons in the nucleus. In situations where there are either more or less electrons in orbit than there are protons in the nucleus, the atom is called an ion. This happens in static electricity and in some chemical solutions.
Electrons are arranged in shells or orbits around the nucleus. There is a definite arrangement of the electrons in these shells and a maximum number of electrons possible in each shell.
The most electrons possible in the first shell are 2. After the first shell is filled, the second shell starts filling up, according to the number of positive charges in the nucleus. The most allowed in the second shell is 8 electrons. Then the third shell starts to fill.
Electron shells for a Sodium atom
Now things start to get complicated. The third shell fills until it gets to 8, and then the fourth shell starts adding electrons until it too has 8 electrons. Then the third shell fills until it gets to 18.
Outer shell basis of Chemistry
The number of electrons in each shell can be seen by using the Periodic Table, which is a lesson in Chemistry. In fact, the basis of chemical combinations depends on the number of electrons in the outer orbit or shell.
The solar system model of the atom is a good way to describe an atom. The nucleus is at the center of the atom and consists of protons and neutrons. There are normally just as many electrons as protons in an atom. The electrons are distributed in shells around the nucleus, according to certain rules. The outer shell is the basis for Chemistry.