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Properties of an Atom


 

    Atoms are made up of sub-atomic particles called protons, neutrons, and electrons.  Protons and neutrons make up the core of the atom, the nucleus.  Electrons make up a kind of cloud around the nucleus.  Most of the atom is just empty space, though.  Protons have a positive charge, and electrons have a negative charge.  Normally there are the same number of protons as electrons in the atom, and the atom has no net charge.  Neutrons have no charge. 

 

Jefferson Lab - Office of Science Education

 

    The above picture is definitely not to scale.  Atoms are classified by the number of protons and the mass of the atom.  The atomic number means the number of protons in the atom.  The atomic weight means the total number of protons and neutrons in the atom. 

    Normal stars fuse hydrogen (H) into helium (He) for most of their lives. In a star's final years, the heavier elements are formed as helium atoms fuse into bigger and bigger atoms. Most of the really heavy atoms (in row 7) do not exist naturally and have a very fast decay time (the atom breaks into smaller atoms).  However, all of the naturally occurring atoms were created in stars!

 

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Website last updated March 16,  2006.  Hosted by Anthony Watts, KMXI Radio.  Webmasters Tiara Norris and Brendan Diamond.