This article is about the shape and mathematical concept. For other uses, see Circle (disambiguation).
"360 degrees" and "360°" redirect here. For other uses, see 360 degrees (disambiguation).
A circle is a simple closed shape. It is the set of all points in a plane that are at a given distance from a given point, the centre; equivalently it is the curve traced out by a point that moves in a plane so that its distance from a given point is constant. The distance between any of the points and the centre is called the radius. This article is about circles in Euclidean geometry, and, in particular, the Euclidean plane, except where otherwise noted.
A circle is a simple closed curve that divides the plane into two regions: an interior and an exterior. In everyday use, the term "circle" may be used interchangeably to refer to either the boundary of the figure, or to the whole figure including its interior; in strict technical usage, the circle is only the boundary and the whole figure is called a disc.
All of the specified regions may be considered as open, that is, not containing their boundaries, or as closed, including their respective boundaries.
The circle has been known since before the beginning of recorded history. Natural circles would have been observed, such as the Moon, Sun, and a short plant stalk blowing in the wind on sand, which forms a circle shape in the sand. The circle is the basis for the wheel, which, with related inventions such as gears, makes much of modern machinery possible. In mathematics, the study of the circle has helped inspire the development of geometry, astronomy and calculus.
Some highlights in the history of the circle are:
Further information: Circumference
Main article: Area of a circle
Equivalently, denoting diameter by d,
that is, approximately 79% of the circumscribing square (whose side is of length d).
This equation, known as the Equation of the Circle, follows from the Pythagorean theorem applied to any point on the circle: as shown in the adjacent diagram, the radius is the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle whose other sides are of length |x − a| and |y − b|. If the circle is centred at the origin (0, 0), then the equation simplifies to
An alternative parametrisation of the circle is:
In this parameterisation, the ratio of t to r can be interpreted geometrically as the stereographic projection of the line passing through the centre parallel to the x-axis (see Tangent half-angle substitution). However, this parameterisation works only if t is made to range not only through all reals but also to a point at infinity; otherwise, the bottom-most point of the circle would be omitted.
The equation of the circle determined by three points not on a line is obtained by a conversion of the 3-point-form of a circle's equation
In polar coordinates, the equation of a circle is:
where a is the radius of the circle, is the polar coordinate of a generic point on the circle, and is the polar coordinate of the centre of the circle (i.e., r0 is the distance from the origin to the centre of the circle, and φ is the anticlockwise angle from the positive x-axis to the line connecting the origin to the centre of the circle). For a circle centred on the origin, i.e. r0 = 0, this reduces to simply r = a. When r0 = a, or when the origin lies on the circle, the equation becomes
In the general case, the equation can be solved for r, giving
Note that without the ± sign, the equation would in some cases describe only half a circle.
In the complex plane, a circle with a centre at c and radius r has the equation:
In parametric form, this can be written:
The slightly generalised equation
Main article: Tangent lines to circles
The tangent line through a point P on the circle is perpendicular to the diameter passing through P. If P = (x1, y1) and the circle has centre (a, b) and radius r, then the tangent line is perpendicular to the line from (a, b) to (x1, y1), so it has the form (x1 − a)x + (y1 – b)y = c. Evaluating at (x1, y1) determines the value of c and the result is that the equation of the tangent is
If y1 ≠ b then the slope of this line is
This can also be found using implicit differentiation.
When the centre of the circle is at the origin then the equation of the tangent line becomes
and its slope is
See also: Power of a point
See also: Inscribed angle theorem
An inscribed angle (examples are the blue and green angles in the figure) is exactly half the corresponding central angle (red). Hence, all inscribed angles that subtend the same arc (pink) are equal. Angles inscribed on the arc (brown) are supplementary. In particular, every inscribed angle that subtends a diameter is a right angle (since the central angle is 180 degrees).
Another proof of this result, which relies only on two chord properties given above, is as follows. Given a chord of length y and with sagitta of length x, since the sagitta intersects the midpoint of the chord, we know it is part of a diameter of the circle. Since the diameter is twice the radius, the "missing" part of the diameter is (2r − x) in length. Using the fact that one part of one chord times the other part is equal to the same product taken along a chord intersecting the first chord, we find that (2r − x)x = (y / 2)2. Solving for r, we find the required result.
There are many compass-and-straightedge constructions resulting in circles.
The simplest and most basic is the construction given the centre of the circle and a point on the circle. Place the fixed leg of the compass on the centre point, the movable leg on the point on the circle and rotate the compass.
See also: Circles of Apollonius
Apollonius of Perga showed that a circle may also be defined as the set of points in a plane having a constant ratio (other than 1) of distances to two fixed foci, A and B. (The set of points where the distances are equal is the perpendicular bisector of segment AB, a line.) That circle is sometimes said to be drawn about two points.
The proof is in two parts. First, one must prove that, given two foci A and B and a ratio of distances, any point P satisfying the ratio of distances must fall on a particular circle. Let C be another point, also satisfying the ratio and lying on segment AB. By the angle bisector theorem the line segment PC will bisect the interior angle APB, since the segments are similar:
Analogously, a line segment PD through some point D on AB extended bisects the corresponding exterior angle BPQ where Q is on AP extended. Since the interior and exterior angles sum to 180 degrees, the angle CPD is exactly 90 degrees, i.e., a right angle. The set of points P such that angle CPD is a right angle forms a circle, of which CD is a diameter.
Second, see:p.15 for a proof that every point on the indicated circle satisfies the given ratio.
Stated another way, P is a point on the circle of Apollonius if and only if the cross-ratio [A,B;C,P] is on the unit circle in the complex plane.
See also: Generalised circle
If C is the midpoint of the segment AB, then the collection of points P satisfying the Apollonius condition
is not a circle, but rather a line.
Thus, if A, B, and C are given distinct points in the plane, then the locus of points P satisfying the above equation is called a "generalised circle." It may either be a true circle or a line. In this sense a line is a generalised circle of infinite radius.
A cyclic polygon is any convex polygon about which a circle can be circumscribed, passing through each vertex. A well-studied example is the cyclic quadrilateral. Every regular polygon and every triangle is a cyclic polygon. A polygon that is both cyclic and tangential is called a bicentric polygon.
A hypocycloid is a curve that is inscribed in a given circle by tracing a fixed point on a smaller circle that rolls within and tangent to the given circle.
The circle can be viewed as a limiting case of each of various other figures:
Defining a circle as the set of points with a fixed distance from a point, different shapes can be considered circles under different definitions of distance. In p-norm, distance is determined by
In Euclidean geometry, p = 2, giving the familiar
In taxicab geometry, p = 1. Taxicab circles are squares with sides oriented at a 45° angle to the coordinate axes. While each side would have length using a Euclidean metric, where r is the circle's radius, its length in taxicab geometry is 2r. Thus, a circle's circumference is 8r. Thus, the value of a geometric analog to is 4 in this geometry. The formula for the unit circle in taxicab geometry is in Cartesian coordinates and
A circle of radius 1 (using this distance) is the von Neumann neighborhood of its center.
A circle of radius r for the Chebyshev distance (L∞ metric) on a plane is also a square with side length 2r parallel to the coordinate axes, so planar Chebyshev distance can be viewed as equivalent by rotation and scaling to planar taxicab distance. However, this equivalence between L1 and L∞ metrics does not generalize to higher dimensions.
Main article: Squaring the circle
Specially named circles
Of a triangle
Of certain quadrilaterals
Of certain polygons
Of a conic section
Of a sphere
Of a torus
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