Centripetal Acceleration

Centripetal acceleration is defined as the property of the motion of an object, traversing a circular path. Any object that is moving in a circle and have acceleration vector pointed towards the center of that circle is known as Centripetal acceleration. You must seen various examples of centripetal acceleration in your everyday’s life. If you drive a car around a circle then your car is undergoing centripetal acceleration and a satellite orbiting the earth also follows a centripetal acceleration. Centripetal means towards the center.

Centripetal Acceleration

The acceleration that is directly radially towards the center of the circle having a magnitude equal to the square of the speed of the body along the curve is divided by the total distance from the center of the circle to the moving body. The force which causes the acceleration is directed towards the center of the circle and is called as centripetal force.


Acceleration can be measured in meters per second as it is the number of meters per second by which your velocity changes every second. When an object is moving in a circular motion, it can be measured by using the following equation- centripetal force equation Acceleration is change in velocity. There must be a question arising in your mind that how can something that is moving at a constant speed in a circle have an acceleration? Speed is how fast an object is moving and is scalar as it does not have any direction. Velocity is both the speed and direction and is vector as it does not have a direction. For example – Speed is  5 miles per hour and Velocity is 5 miles per hour south.

A force always causes the centripetal acceleration as for a satellite, it is the force of gravity. For a swing-ball, it is the tension in the string. For a moving car around a car, it is the frictional force between the car and the road. If you tend to remove the centripetal acceleration then the object will continue to move in a straight line(tangent to the circle).

Practise This Question

A fly was sitting on a block. A man draws a circle of the area 2 cm2, enclosing the fly. He then applies a force of 20N and kills it with a flat stick. Calculate the pressure on that area.