Introduction to Circular Motion, the Path

This is the home, or starting, page for the introductory concepts of circular motion. Choose the Circular Motion Home link to return to the main circular motion section. After going over the material on this page, choose the Next link to move through the introductory material.


An object moves in circular motion. The speed of the object is constant. The path is a perfect circle.

What we mean by circular motion.

We will consider the physics of an object moving in a perfect circle at a constant speed. Few objects in nature move along such a perfect path. However, understanding this idealized motion will make it possible to understand a motion along a more complicated curved path. Also, many mechanical devices include parts which move in perfect circles, so, this topic is important for understanding their design and engineering.

Often, we will call the circular path an orbit. We might say something such as: 'The speed stays constant while the object orbits.' Of course, the term orbit usually refers to the path of a planet or a moon. These celestial bodies rarely follow perfectly circular paths. They move in ellipses. That said, we will at times casually refer to the path of circular motion as an orbit within this introductory context.

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