Chemistry
Nuclear Physics

Why does an electron have to live in an orbital?

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December 21, 2008 9:49AM

A fundamental law of electrostatics is that opposite charges attract. Electrons carry a negative charge, and protons carry a positive one. The positive charge on the nucleus "captures" the electron and they take up station in an orbital. The electron has too much energy to give it up and collapse into the nucleus, so it hangs out in the electron cloud with other electrons.