This question is similar to one asked if virtual electrons exist outside the nucleus, but please note, my question says virtual particles. It is not a duplicate. I read so often that matter is mostly empty space and the electron is some fantastically large distance from the nucleus that matter is mostly empty space. We know there is actually an electron cloud that fills the nucleus that reflects the probability of finding the electron. Are there virtual particles and anti particles popping in and out of existence in any of the spaces surrounding the nucleus? The same ones that produce the energy of the vacuum. I ask because there many textbooks that insist we are all mostly made of empty space since there is so much of it surrounding a nucleus.
"The same ones that produce the energy of the vacuum."
in mainstream physics theories the vacuum has zero energy, and feynman diagram loops representing creation and annihilation of particle pairs are non existent without an incoming real particle traversing the vacuum.
do virtual particles pop in and out of existence in the space just outside the nucleus?
A nucleus can be treated quantum mechanically with feynman diagrams as a real input line in a diagram , and thus loop corrections can be envisaged between the interactions of the nucleus with the lowest electron orbital field. So in this sense yes, virtual particle antiparticle loops are possible, except they are such higher order corrections that the powers of 1/137 that will enter in the calculations , make it a futile effort as a correction.
For the total atom, the Lamb shift is the effect of such vacuum loops modifying calculations.