Terminal velocity is the maximum velocity that a free-falling object can reach and stop accelerating further. When an object falls under the influence of gravity, the resistance due to the presence of air molecules creates drag. As the object keeps accelerating the drag increases proportionally and reaches a point where the drag force balances the weight of the falling object. Sometimes, if the object has a buoyant force, it is added up to the forced caused due to drag. At this point, the object can no longer accelerate and reaches the constant velocity, known as the terminal velocity.
At terminal velocity, the gravitational force acting on it is equal to the force of drag exerted by the fluid. Mathematically, terminal velocity can be formulated by analyzing the total force acting on it.
At terminal velocity, the total force acting on the object will be zero.
Where is the mass of the object, is the acceleration due to gravity, is the density of the fluid, is the terminal velocity, is the surface area, and is the coefficient of drag.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will an object in space attain terminal velocity?
Space is not a perfect vacuum. There exists a little amount of resistance. An object in space will continue to move with the same initial velocity unless any external forces affect it. Terminal velocity does not apply in space as there is a very little resistance that can balance the forces acting on the object. Same applies for a perfect vacuum too.