Electron shell
An electron shell may be thought of as an orbit
In physics, an orbit is the gravitationally curved path of an object around a point in space, for example the orbit of a planet around the center of a star system, such as the Solar System...

 followed by electrons around an atom
The atom is a basic unit of matter that consists of a dense central nucleus surrounded by a cloud of negatively charged electrons. The atomic nucleus contains a mix of positively charged protons and electrically neutral neutrons...

's nucleus
Atomic nucleus
The nucleus is the very dense region consisting of protons and neutrons at the center of an atom. It was discovered in 1911, as a result of Ernest Rutherford's interpretation of the famous 1909 Rutherford experiment performed by Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden, under the direction of Rutherford. The...

. The closest shell to the nucleus is called the "1 shell" (also called "K shell"), followed by the "2 shell" (or "L shell"), then the "3 shell" (or "M shell"), and so on further and further from the nucleus. The shell letters K,L,M,... are alphabetical.

Each shell can contain only a fixed number of electrons: The 1 shell can hold up to two electrons, the 2 shell can hold up to eight electrons, and in general, the n shell can hold up to 2n2 electrons.