An inscribed angle is formed when two secant lines intersect on a circle. It can also be formed using a secant line and a tangent line intersecting on a circle. A central angle, on the other hand, is an angle whose vertex is the center of the circle and whose sides pass through a pair of points on the circle, therefore subtending an arc. In this post, we explore the relationship between inscribed angles and central angles having the same subtended arc. The angle of the subtended arc is the same as the measure of the central angle (by definition).
In the first circle, is a central angle subtended by arc . Angle is an inscribed angle subtended by arc . In the second circle, is an inscribed angle and is a central angle. Both angles are subtending arc .
What can you say about the two angles subtending the same arc? Draw several cases of central angles and inscribed angles subtending the same arc and measure them. Use a dynamic geometry software if necessary. Are your observations the same?
In the discussion below, we prove one of the three cases of the relationship between a central angle and an inscribed angle subtending the same arc.
The measure of an angle inscribed in a circle is half the measure of the arc it intercepts. Note that this is equivalent to the measure of the inscribed angle is half the measure of the central angle if they intercept the same arc.
Let be an inscribed angle and be a central angle both subtending arc as shown in the figure. Draw line . This forms two isosceles triangles and since two of their sides are radii of the circle.
In triangle , if we let the measure of be , then angle is also . By the exterior angle theorem, the measure of angle . This is also similar to triangle . If we let angle , it follows that is equal to 2y. In effect, the measure of the inscribed angle and the measure of central angle which is what we want to prove.
The proofs of the second and third case are left as an exercise.