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Pole and polar

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"Polar line" redirects here. For the railway line, see Polar Line.

The polar line q to a point Q with respect to a circle of radius r centered on the pointO. The point P is the inversion point of Q; the polar is the line through P that is perpendicular to the line containing O, P andQ.

In geometry, the terms pole and polar are used to describe a point and a line that have a unique reciprocal relationship with respect to a given conic section. If the point lies on the conic section, its polar is the tangent line to the conic section at that point. For a given circle, reciprocation in a circle means to transform each point in the plane into its polar line and each line in the plane into its pole.
Contents
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1 Special case of circles 2 Reciprocation and projective duality

3 General conic sections 4 Properties 5 Applications 6 See also 7 Bibliography 8 References 9 External links

Special case of circles[edit]


The pole of a line L in a circle C is a point P that is the inversion in C of the point Q on L that is closest to the center of the circle. Conversely, the polar line (or polar) of a point P in a circle C is the line L such that its closest point Q to the circle is the inversion of Pin C.

If a point A lies on the polar line q of another point Q, then Q lies on the polar linea of A. More generally, the polars of all the points on the line q must pass through its pole Q.

The relationship between poles and polars is reciprocal. Thus, if a point Q is on the polar lineA of a point P, then the point P must lie on the polar line B of the point Q. The two polar linesA and B need not be parallel. There is another description of the polar line of a point P in the case that it lies outside the circle C. In this case, there are two lines through P which are tangent to the circle, and the polar of P is the line joining the two points of tangency (not shown here). This shows that pole and polar line are concepts in the projective geometry of the plane and generalize with anynonsingular conic in the place of the circle C.

Reciprocation and projective duality[edit]

Illustration of the duality between points and lines, and the double meaning of "incidence". If two lines a and k pass through a single point Q, then the polar q ofQ joins the poles A and K of the lines a andk, respectively.

The concepts of a pole and its polar line were advanced in projective geometry. For instance, the polar line can be viewed as the set of projective harmonic conjugates of a given point, the pole, with respect to a conic. The operation of replacing every point by its polar and vice versa is sometimes known as reciprocation.

General conic sections[edit]


The concepts of pole, polar and reciprocation can be generalized from circles to other conic sections which are the ellipse, hyperbola and parabola. This generalization is possible because conic sections result from a reciprocation of a circle in another circle, and the properties involved, such as incidence and the cross-ratio, are preserved under all projective transformations. A general conic section may be written as a second-degree equation in the Cartesian coordinates (x, y) of the plane

where Axx, Axy, Ayy, Bx, By, and C are the constants defining the equation. For such a conic section, the polar line to a given pole point (, ) is defined by the equation

where D, E and F are likewise constants that depend on the pole coordinates (, )

If the pole lies on the conic section, its polar is tangent to the conic section. However, the pole need not lie on the conic section.