The periodic table of the elements.
Click on image for full size
L.Gardiner/Windows to the Universe

The Periodic Table of the Elements

Everything you see around you is made of tiny particles called atoms. Atoms are so small that you can’t see them but scientists have found out that there are many different types of atoms, and each type is called an element.

The picture to the left shows the periodic table of the elements. This table lists all the elements that we know exist.

Each square in the table represents a different element. Each element has its own sign and number. For instance, the upper left square of the table includes an ‘H’ and a number one. The ‘H’ stands for the element called hydrogen. The number one means that each atom of hydrogen has one positively charged particle, called a proton , at its center.

These elements are the ingredients used to make everything we find on Earth.

Last modified April 29, 2003 by Lisa Gardiner.

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Element (Chemical Element)

An element (also called a "chemical element") is a substance made up entirely of atoms having the same atomic number; that is, all of the atoms have the same number of protons. Hydrogen, helium, oxygen,...more

Atomic Number

Every atom has a nucleus. The nucleus has protons and neutrons in it. Scientists have a special name for the number of protons in an atom. They call it the "atomic number". There are almost 100 different...more


Chemistry is the study of matter, energy, and how they effect each other. Chemists study the what substances are made of and what they do, and how they react with each other. Chemists work to develop new...more

What Is a Mineral?

Minerals are the building blocks of rocks. There are many different types of minerals. All of them are solid and all are made of atoms of elements. Minerals can grow even though they are not alive. Most...more

Elements in the Earth’s Crust

What’s the Earth made of? Most of the Earth’s outer layer, the crust, is made up of eight types of elements. Oxygen (O) Silicon (Si) Aluminum (Al) Iron (Fe) Calcium (Ca) Sodium (Na) Potassium (K) Magnesium...more

Metals, Nonmetals, & Metalloids

The elements in the periodic table on the left are divided into three groups. The elements in the table that have green squares are called metals. Most elements are metals. They are usually shiny, seem...more

The Elements of Life

Elements make up everything around us including the trees of a forest, your pets, and even YOU! All living things are made up of small compartments called cells and the cells of every creature are made...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA