Science, Tech, Math › Science P Orbital Definition in Science Atomic Structure Share Flipboard Email Print The p orbital is shaped like a dumbbell. sakkmesterke / Getty Images Science Chemistry Molecules Basics Chemical Laws Periodic Table Projects & Experiments Scientific Method Biochemistry Physical Chemistry Medical Chemistry Chemistry In Everyday Life Famous Chemists Activities for Kids Abbreviations & Acronyms Biology Physics Geology Astronomy Weather & Climate By Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Chemistry Expert Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences, University of Tennessee at Knoxville B.A., Physics and Mathematics, Hastings College Dr. Helmenstine holds a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and is a science writer, educator, and consultant. She has taught science courses at the high school, college, and graduate levels. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Updated November 05, 2019 At any given moment, an electron can be found at any distance from the nucleus and in any direction according to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. The p orbital is a dumbbell-shaped or lobed region describing where an electron can be found, within a certain degree of probability. The node of the dumbbell occurs at the atomic nucleus, so the probability of finding an electron in the nucleus is very low (but not zero). The shape of the orbital depends on the quantum numbers associated with an energy state. All p orbitals have l = 1, with three possible values for m (-1, 0, +1). The wave function is complex when m = 1 or m = -1. Sources Griffiths, David (1995). Introduction to Quantum Mechanics. Prentice Hall. pp. 190–191. ISBN 978-0-13-124405-4.Levine, Ira (2000). Quantum Chemistry (5 ed.). Prentice Hall. pp. 144–145. ISBN 978-0-13-685512-5.Orchin, Milton; Macomber, Roger S.; Pinhas, Allan; Wilson, R. Marshall (2005). Atomic Orbital Theory.