I am a highschool student and I am really confused about the following: We studied that electrons cannot be between main energy levels therefore in an emission spectrum of an element lets say hydrogen we see single lines which totally makes sense. But then we took sublevels and orbitals, taking the second main level for example which consists of the (s,p sublevels) we find that their orbitals cover a large space in the atom and the elctron can exist anywhere in that space which theoretically means that if we find its emission spectrum it will be continous and we wouldnt be able to differ between different elements.. Please correct my misunderstanding. Thank you.


closed as unclear what you're asking by Mithoron, pentavalentcarbon, Todd Minehardt, ron, airhuff Dec 5 '17 at 19:21

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    $\begingroup$ Jumps between energy levels will indeed yield line spectra not a continuous spectra. Students are first taught the planetary model then shown the more exact models of orbitals using distributions due to quantum mechanics. To really understand why jumps between the distributions still give you line spectra you'd have to go through the math of quantum mechanics. For now just accept that atoms do behave that way. Truthfully a lot of chemistry is about modeling behavior rather than absolute mathematical rigor. $\endgroup$ – MaxW Dec 5 '17 at 17:11
  • $\begingroup$ @MaxW Thank you very much! This is what I was looking for, I try sometimes to try understanding the concepts further than what our teacher or the book offers to us but I always end up into mazes.. $\endgroup$ – user170799 Dec 5 '17 at 17:16

In the Bohr theory of the atom, electrons travel in fixed orbits, and do not exist between these orbits.

However, the Bohr theory was disproved, and instead it is known that for each orbital, the electrons may be anywhere in space, except at nodes.

Nonetheless, though the electrons may be essentially anywhere in space, the energy of an electron in a particular orbital is a specific energy.


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