Q:

What does a nitrogen atom look like?

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Quick Answer

A nitrogen atom's appearance consists of a nucleus that's surrounded by one orbital containing two electrons and a second orbital containing five electrons. The total number of electrons in one atom of nitrogen can be determined by the location of nitrogen on the periodic table of elements.

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The first orbital, which contains two electrons, is called the 1s orbital. The number 1 refers to the energy level of the orbital, and the letter s refers to the type of orbital. The 1s orbital is full when it contains two electrons. The second orbital, which contains five electrons, is made up of the 2s and 2p orbitals. The number 2 refers to the energy level of the orbitals, while the s and p letters refer to the type of orbital.

Although not seen in a nitrogen atom, the d- and f-orbital are the two other types of orbitals available to the electrons in an atom. Like the 1s orbital, the 2s orbital is full when it contains two electrons. The 2p orbital is full when it contains six electrons, meaning that in a nitrogen atom there is room for one additional electron in the 2p orbital. Nitrogen was discovered in 1772 by Daniel Rutherford and is commonly found in the atmosphere.

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