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Cerium is the second element of the lanthanide series. In the periodic table, it appears between the lanthanides lanthanum to its left and praseodymium to its right, and above the actinide thorium. It is a ductile metal with a hardness similar to that of silver. Its 58 electrons are arranged in the configuration [Xe]4f15d16s2, of which the four outer electrons are valence electrons. Immediately after lanthanum, the 4f orbitals suddenly contract and are lowered in energy to the point that they participate readily in chemical reactions; however, this effect is not yet strong enough at cerium and thus the 5d subshell is still occupied. Most lanthanides can use only three electrons as valence electrons, as afterwards the remaining 4f electrons are too strongly bound: cerium is an exception because of the stability of the empty f-shell in Ce4+ and the fact that it comes very early in the lanthanide series, where the nuclear charge is still low enough until neodymium to allow the removal of the fourth valence electron by chemical means.