Visualizing the Atomic Orbitals of Hydrogen
Rather than circular orbits as in Bohr's planetary model of the hydrogen
atom, the path of the electron is not possible to determine in detail.
Because of its wave properties, the effect of the electron as a three
dimensional standing wave can be described by mathematical equations called
orbitals. These equations can be used to generate a threedimensional
picture of the average distribution of the electron over the space of
the atom, and the orbital pictures are useful in understanding some of
the properties of the electron as it participates in bonding. The
nature and derivation of these orbital equations are well beyond the scope
of this course. But the pictures they generate are constructive
in helping us get a mental picture of the behavior of electrons in atoms.
Following are two web sites that have show these pictures in different
ways.
 A computer simulation actually
generates a picture of the orbitals on request by using the orbital
equations to calculate the probability of the electron being at any
one of several thousand coordinate positions. Click on the
orbital type you are interested in, and watch the colored distribution
"cloud" be generated in the coordinate system.
 A set of orbital
images as jpeg graphics files. Click on the orbital in the
table. (Some other links on this page are out of date and do not
link to anything)
