# What do #n#, #l#, and #m_l# tell us about an orbital?

##### 1 Answer

The quantum numbers

#### Explanation:

The wave function of an orbital (its probability pattern) is determined by three quantum numbers.

**The principal quantum number #n#**

The principal quantum number determines the **size** of an orbital and its probability pattern.

The bigger the principal quantum number the bigger the orbital.

The size of an orbital is roughly proportional to the value of

**The azimuthal quantum number, #l#**

The azimuthal quantum number determines the **shape** of an orbital.

If

The probability pattern has the shape of a sphere, as in the above image.

If

(From WebElements)

The picture does not show the relative sizes of the orbitals, but it does show their general shapes.

**The magnetic quantum number #m_l#**

The magnetic orbital determines the **number of orbitals** of a given type and the **directions they point** in a magnetic field.

For a

Thus, there are three different

We see the