All alkali metals have their outermost electron in an s-orbital: this shared electron configuration results in their having very similar characteristic properties. Indeed, the alkali metals provide the best example of group trends in properties in the periodic table, with elements exhibiting well-characterised homologous behaviour. This family of elements is also known as the lithium family after its leading element.
The alkali metals are all shiny, soft, highly reactive metals at standard temperature and pressure and readily lose their outermost electron to form cations with charge +1. They can all be cut easily with a knife due to their softness, exposing a shiny surface that tarnishes rapidly in air due to oxidation by atmospheric moisture and oxygen. Because of their high reactivity, they must be stored under oil to prevent reaction with air, and are found naturally only in salts and never as the free elements. Caesium, the fifth alkali metal, is the most reactive of all the metals. All the alkali metals react with water, with the heavier alkali metals reacting more vigorously than the lighter ones.
All of the discovered alkali metals occur in nature as their compounds: in order of abundance, sodium is the most abundant, followed by potassium, lithium, rubidium, caesium, and finally francium, which is very rare due to its extremely high radioactivity; francium occurs only in minute traces in nature as an intermediate step in some obscure side branches of the natural decay chains.
The alkaline earth metals are six chemical elements in group 2 of the periodic table. They are beryllium (Be), magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca), strontium (Sr), barium (Ba), and radium (Ra). The elements have very similar properties: they are all shiny, silvery-white, somewhat reactive metals at standard temperature and pressure. All the discovered alkaline earth metals occur in nature, although radium occurs only through the decay chain of uranium and thorium and not as a primordial element. There have been experiments, all unsuccessful, to try to synthesize element 120, the next potential member of the group.