Difference between Orbit and Orbital

Orbit vs. Orbital

What is difference between Orbit and Orbital? Very often people confuse the orbital and orbital words. Many believe that it is the same; others know that they are different, but they cannot explain what sets them apart. However, although they sound similar, it is important to keep in mind that they do not mean the same thing.

Difference between Orbit and Orbital

If you have doubts about the difference between orbit and orbital or just looking for a little more information to complement what you already know, then continue reading, because below we explain everything you need to know around to this interesting topic.


The orbit is the trajectory traced by an electron that revolves around the nucleus of an atom. Also, the path that follows the planets when they revolve around another astronomical body is called orbit.

In a term quite discussed in Astronomy. The orbit describes a rounded two-dimensional path in the space representing planetary motion and also the location of electrons around the nucleus of an atom. In the same way, it is the curved path that takes an object around a star, a planet, a moon…

The most common example to describe what an orbit is our planet Earth, Jupiter and Saturn that follow its orbit around the sun. There are two types of orbit: Geosynchronous orbit and geostationary orbit. The first refers to the path around a planet that has the same orbital period as the period of rotation of the planet. While the second is almost the same as the first, only in this case it remains stationary with respect to a single point on the surface of the planet.


On the other hand, orbital can be defined as a wave function that describes the state or location of a single electron in an atom (orbital atom) or in a molecule (molecular orbital). It is a region of space around the nucleus, where the probability of finding an electron is a lot.

Finally, an orbital is an undecided region within an atom and it is in that region where the probability of finding an electron becomes higher. The orbitals arise in different forms according to the component and its atomic number.

The orbit is the path or path that follows the planets, while the orbital is the form that results from the combination of all the orbits that an electron is likely to follow. The orbits exist for two bodies with mass, whereas an orbital exists only for atoms, electrons and molecules.

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