Video: Diagrams for Rutherford’s Nuclear or Planetary Model of the Atom

Which diagram most closely represents Rutherford’s nuclear or planetary model of the atom?

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Video Transcript

Which diagram most closely represents Rutherford’s nuclear or planetary model of the atom?

Rutherford’s planetary or nuclear model is based of observations from the gold foil experiment. In the planetary model, there is a positively charged nucleus in the center of the atom. And the electrons orbit the nucleus. So let’s see which of the diagrams that we have most closely represents this description of the atom. In diagram (A), we have electrons in orbits around the nucleus. This certainly matches what we’re looking for. So let’s keep this diagram in mind. In answer choice (B), we have positively charged particles in a negative charge. This diagram certainly doesn’t match what we’re looking for. In fact, it doesn’t match any model of the atom.

In answer choice (C), we have particles arranged on the corners of a cube. This diagram is referencing Lewis’s cubic model of the atom. In answer choice (D), we have electrons orbiting a central nucleus, which is what we’re looking for. So let’s keep this answer choice in mind as well. Our final answer choice has negatively charged particles embedded in positive charge. This certainly doesn’t describe what we’re looking for, but it does describe the plum pudding model of the atom.

So we’ve eliminated the possible diagrams to represent the planetary or nuclear model of the atom down to answer choice (A) or answer choice (D). But what’s different between these two diagrams? Both of them show electrons orbiting a central nucleus. Well, the circles in diagram (A) are meant to represent fixed orbits for the electrons that correspond to discrete energy levels. So this diagram is actually meant to represent Bohr’s model of the atom, which features fixed orbits for the electrons due to the electrons having discrete energy levels that they occupy.

So answer choice (A) isn’t what we’re looking for either. Which leaves us with answer choice (D), which is the correct diagram to represent Rutherford’s planetary or nuclear model of the atom.

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