Centripetal vs. Centrifugal

Centripetal vs. Centrifugal

Both centripetal and centrifugal are kinds of forces that result from circular motion around an axis.

Centripetal is a force that is directed toward the center or axis. This force keeps an object moving in a circular path (such as an orbit) at uniform speed. Some examples of where this force comes from are gravity, friction, and tension. A satellite orbiting Earth is an example of centripetal force being applied to the satellite.

Centrifugal force is the tendency of an object following a curved path to move away from the center or axis. This is not truly a scientific force, but the result of inertia.

Both forces are determined using the same scientific formula. When an object is rotating properly, these two forces will be equal. If the source of centripetal force is eliminated (such as breaking the string of a spinning yo-yo), the object will continue moving in a straight line tangent to its original circular path.

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