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Atomic orbitals: 6p

The shape of the three 6p orbitals. From left to right: 6pz, 6px, and 6py. For each, the blue zones are where the wave functions have negative values and the gold zones denote positive values.

For any atom, there are three 6p orbitals. These orbitals have the same shape but are aligned differently in space. The three 6p orbitals normally used are labelled 6px, 6py, and 6pz since the functions are "aligned" along the x, y, and z axes respectively.

Each 6p orbital has ten lobes. There is a planar node normal to the axis of the orbital (so the 6px orbital has a yz nodal plane, for instance). Apart from the planar node there are also four spherical node that partition off the small inner lobes. The 7p) orbital is more complex still since it has even more spherical nodes.

The origin of the planar node becomes clear if we examine the wave equation which, for instance, includes an x term in the case of the 6px orbital. Clearly When x = 0, then we must have a node, and this by definition is the yz plane.

The origin of the spherical nodes becomes clearer if we examine the wave equations, which include a (840 - 840ρ + 252ρ2 - 28ρ3 + ρ4) term. When (840 - 840ρ + 252ρ2 - 28ρ3 + ρ4) = 0, then we must have nodes. While not trivial, we can solve this on a case-by-case basis to determine the position of the nodes.

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