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The periodic table of the elements.
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L.Gardiner/Windows to the Universe

The Periodic Table of the Elements

Everything you see around you is made of tiny particles called atoms. There are many different types of atoms, each with a special combination of protons , neutrons and electrons . These different types of atoms are called elements.

To understand and remember all the different types of elements, scientists organized them all into a table called the periodic table of the elements. The picture on the left shows the table, which lists all the elements that have been found or created.

Each element has its own symbol. For instance, the upper left square of the table is labeled ‘H’. The ‘H’ is the symbol for an element called hydrogen.

Notice how each element in the table has its own number. This number is called the atomic number and tells us how many protons are in the nucleus of an atom of the element. For instance, each atom of hydrogen has one proton so there is a number one in hydrogen’s square.

Only the first 92 elements in the table are naturally found, while the others are synthetically made in places like laboratories. These elements are the ingredients used to make everything we find on Earth.

Last modified April 29, 2003 by Lisa Gardiner.

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The Fall 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist, focuses on rocks and minerals, including articles on minerals and mining, the use of minerals in society, and rare earth minerals, and includes 3 posters!

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