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Analytic Geometry 34

Lesson 5

The Parabola

SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES:

At the end of the lesson, the student is expected to be able to:

 define conic section


 identify the different conic section
 describe parabola
 convert general form to standard form of equation of
parabola and vice versa.
 give the different properties of a parabola and sketch its
graph

5.1 Conic Section

Definition 5.1 Conic Section

A conic section is a section obtained from a right circular cone. It may


also be defined to be the locus of a point which moves so that its distance from a
fixed point, known as a focus, is in constant ratio e, eccentricity, to its distance
from a fixed straight line, known as a directrix.

General Equation of a Conic Section

The general equation of a conic section is defined as

Ax2 + Bxy + Cy2 + Dx + Ey + F = 0 .

If the axes are parallel to the x and y axes respectively, then B = 0. Thus,
the above equation becomes

Ax2 + Cy2 + Dx + Ey + F = 0
Analytic Geometry 35

Four Ways of Determining a Conic Section

1. By Cutting a Plane

a. If a plane is cut parallel to the base, a circle is obtained.

Fig. 5.1.1

b. If a plane is cut parallel to the element, a parabola is obtained.

Fig. 5.1.2

c. If a plane is cut not parallel to any element, an ellipse is obtained.

Fig. 5.1.3

d. If a plane is cut parallel to the altitude, a hyperbola is obtained.

Fig. 5.1.4
Analytic Geometry 36

2. By Eccentricity e
a. If e = 0, the conic is a circle.
b. If e = 1, the conic is a parabola.
c. If e < 1, the conic is an ellipse.
d. If e > 1, the conic is a hyperbola.

3. By Equations

Note that the equation Ax2 + Cy2 + Dx + Ey + F = 0 will be used.

a. If A = C, the conic is a circle.


b. If either A or C is zero, the conic is parabola.
c. If A  C, but of the same sign, the conic is an ellipse.
d. If A and C have opposite signs, the conic is a hyperbola.

4. By Discriminant

Note that the equation Ax2 + Bxy + Cy2 + Dx + Ey + F = 0 will be used.

a. If B2  4 AC = 0 , the conic is a parabola.


b. If B2  4 AC  0 , the conic is a hyperbola.
c. If B2  4 AC  0 and A  C , the conic is an ellipse.
d. If B2  4 AC  0 and A = C , the conic is a circle.

5.2 The Parabola

Definition 5.2 Parabola

Parabola is a locus of a point which moves so that it is always


equidistant to a fixed point called focus and to a fixed straight line called
directrix.

The following terms are very important in drawing the graph of a parabola:

Axis of a Parabola

Axis of a parabola is the line passing through the focus and


perpendicular to the directrix. The vertex is the midpoint of the segment of the
axis from the focus to the directrix. It may also be defined to be the point where
the axis intersects the curve. The focal distance, denoted by p , is the distance
from the vertex to the focus.
Analytic Geometry 37

Eccentricity
Eccentricity is defined as the ratio of the distance to the focus to the
distance to the directrix. Since the distance from any point on the parabola to the
focus and the distance from any point on the parabola to the directrix are equal,
the eccentricity of a parabola is e = 1 .

Latus Rectum
The latus rectum is a segment passing through the focus and
perpendicular to the axis of the parabola. The length of the latus rectum is four
times the focal distance. Thus, the length of the latus rectum is LR = 4a .

5.3 General Equations of a Parabola

Horizontal Parabola: Ax2 + Dx + Ey + F = 0

Note : E or A must not be zero.

Vertical Parabola: Cy2 + Dx + Ey + F = 0

Note : D or C must not be zero.

5.4 Standard Equations of a Parabola

I. Parabola with Vertex at the Origin, V(0,0)

The standard equation of a parabola whose vertex lies on the origin and
whose axis is parallel to the x-axis is

y2 = �4ax

Note that if a  0 , the parabola opens to the right. If a  0 , the parabola


opens to the left.
P(x, y)

V F Axis of
0 a Parabola
Latus
Rectum
Directrix

Fig. 5.4.1
Analytic Geometry 38

Now, if the axis is parallel to the y-axis, the standard equation of the parabola is

x2 = �4ay

Axis of
Latus Parabola
Rectum F P(x, y)
V
0 a
Directrix

Fig. 5.4.2

Note that if a  0 , the parabola opens upward. If a  0 , the parabola opens


downward.

II. Parabola with Vertex at (h, k)


Now, consider the case where the vertex V of the parabola is at  h, k  . If
the axis of the parabola is parallel to the x-axis, the standard equation of the
parabola is
 yk 2 =  4a  x  h 

y-axis P(x, y)

V F Axis of
a Parabola
Latus
Rectum
Directrix

x-axis
0
Fig. 5.4.3

Note that if a  0 , the parabola opens to the right. If a  0 , the parabola


opens to the left.
Now, if the axis is parallel to the y-axis, the standard equation of the
parabola is
 xh 2 =  4a  y  k 
Analytic Geometry 39

y-axis
Axis of
Latus Parabola
Rectum F P(x, y)
V
a
Directrix

x-axis
0

Fig. 5.4.4

Note that if a  0 , the parabola opens upward. If a  0 , the parabola opens


downward.

Example 5.4.1 Find the focus, directrix, and the length of the latus rectum of the
parabola. Sketch the graph.

1. y2 = 2x
2. 2x2 = 4y
3. 4x2 + 4x – 24y + 37 = 0
4. (x + 1)2 = -2(y – 1)
5. y2 + 4y + 3x – 4 = 0

Example 5.4.2 Find the equation of the parabola satisfying the conditions given.

1. directrix x = -2 and focus (2, 0) Ans. y2 = 8x

2. vertex at (5,-2) and focus at (5,-4) Ans:  x  5 2 = 8 y + 2

3. passing through (-4,-6), whose vertex is at (-2,-4), and whose axis is parallel
to the x-axis. Ans:
 y + 4 2 = 2 x + 2 
4. vertex at (1, 2) and latus rectum 4 opens to the left. Ans. (y - 2)2 = -4(x – 1)
5. vertex at (-2, 3), passing through (0, -2), and axis parallel to the y-axis
Ans. (x + 2)2 = -4/5 (y – 3)

Example 5.4.3 A cable suspended between two posts that are the same height
and 10 meters apart has a sag of 1 meter. If the cable hangs in the form of a
parabola, find its equation, taking the lowest point as the origin.
Ans. x2 = 25y
Analytic Geometry 40

Exercise 5.4.1 Find the focus, directrix, and the length of the latus rectum of the
parabola. Sketch the graph.

1. y2 = -12x
2. 4x2 = 10y
3. 4x2 + 6x = y – 2
4. (x + 2)2 = 2(y – 1)
5. y2 – 6y – 4x + 17 = 0

Exercise 5.4.2 Find the equation of the parabola satisfying the conditions given.

1. vertex at (5, –2) and focus at (5, –4). Ans. x2 – 10x + 8y + 41 = 0


2. vertex at (2, 6) and y = 7 as directrix Ans. x2 – 4x + 4y – 20 = 0

3. passing through (–4, –6) whose vertex is at (–2, –4) and whose axis is
parallel to the x-axis.
Ans.y2 + 2x + 8y + 20 = 0
4. directrix: y + 6 = 0 and focus (0, 0) Ans. y2 + 4x – 4y = 0
5. vertex at (3, -2), ends of latus rectum (5, 0), (5, -4)
Ans. y2 – 4x + 4y – 8 = 0

Exercise 5.4.3
When the load is uniformly distributed horizontally, a suspension bridge cable hangs in a
parabolic arc. If the bridge is 200m long and the tower 40m high and the cable is 15m above the
floor of the bridge at the middle point, find the height of a point on the cable above the floor 20m
from one tower.

y
20 m

40 m
15 m

100 m 100 m