This article is about angles in geometry. For other articles, see Angle (disambiguation)
An angle (from the Lat. angulus, a corner, a diminutive, of which the primitive form, angus, does not occur in Latin; cognate are the Lat. angere, to compress into a bend or to strangle, and the Gr. ἄγκοσ, a bend; both connected with the Aryan or Indo-European root ank-, to bend) is the figure formed by two rays sharing a common endpoint, called the vertex of the angle. Angles provide a means of expressing the difference in slope between two rays meeting at a vertex without the need to explicitly define the slopes of the two rays. Angles are studied in geometry and trigonometry.
Euclid defines a plane angle as the inclination to each other, in a plane, of two lines which meet each other, and do not lie straight with respect to each other. According to Proclus an angle must be either a quality or a quantity, or a relationship. The first concept was used by Eudemus , who regarded an angle as a deviation from a straight line; the second by Carpus of Antioch , who regarded it as the interval or space between the intersecting lines; Euclid adopted the third concept, although his definitions of right, acute, and obtuse angles are certainly quantitative.
Units of measure for angles
In order to measure an angle, a circle centered at the vertex is drawn. Since the circumference of a circle is always directly proportional to the length of its radius, the measure of the angle is independent of the size of the circle. Note that angles are dimensionless, since they are defined as the ratio of lengths.
- The radian measure of the angle is the length of the arc cut out by the angle, divided by the circle's radius. The SI system of units uses radians as the (derived) unit for angles.
- The degree measure of the angle is the length of the arc, divided by the circumference of the circle, and multiplied by 360. The symbol for degrees is a small superscript circle, as in 360°. 2π radians is equal to 360° (a full circle), so one radian is about 57° and one degree is π/180 radians.
- The grad, also called grade or gon, is an angular measure where the arc is divided by the circumference, and multiplied by 400. It is used mostly in triangulation.
- The point is used in navigation, and is defined as 1/32 of a circle, or exactly 11.25°.
- The full circle or full turns represents the number or fraction of complete full turns. For example, π/2 radians = 90° = 1/4 full circle
Conventions on measurement
A convention universally adopted in mathematical writing is that angles given a sign are positive angles if measured counterclockwise, and negative angles if measured clockwise, from a given line. If no line is specified, it can be assumed to be the x-axis in the Cartesian plane. In navigation and other areas this convention may not be followed.
In mathematics radians are assumed unless specified otherwise because this removes the arbitrariness of the number 360 in the degree system and because the trigonometric functions can be developed into particularly simple Taylor series if their arguments are specified in radians.
Types of angles
An angle of π/2 radians or 90°, one-quarter of the full circle is called a right angle.
Two line segments, rays, or lines (or any combination) which form a right angle are said to be either perpendicular or orthogonal:
Angles smaller than a right angle are called acute angles; angles larger than a right angle are called obtuse angles. Angles equal to two right angles are called straight angles. Angles larger than two right angles are called reflex angles.
The difference between an acute angle and a right angle is termed the complement of the angle, and between an angle and two right angles the supplement of the angle.
In Euclidean geometry, the inner angles of a triangle add up to π radians or 180°; the inner angles of a quadrilateral add up to 2π radians or 360°. In general, the inner angles of a simple polygon with n sides add up to (n − 2) × π radians or (n − 2) × 180°.
If two straight lines intersect, four angles are formed. Each one has an equal measure to the angle across from it; these congruent angles are called vertical angles .
If a straight line intersects two parallel lines, corresponding angles at the two points of intersection are equal; adjacent angles are complementary, that is they add to π radians or 180°.
Angles in different contexts
In the Euclidean plane, the angle θ between two vectors u and v is related to their dot product and their lengths by the formula
This allows one to define angles in any real inner product space, replacing the Euclidean dot product · by the Hilbert space inner product <·,·>.
The angle between a line and a curve (mixed angle) or between two intersecting curves (curvilinear angle) is defined to be the angle between the tangents at the point of intersection. Various names (now rarely, if ever, used) have been given to particular cases:—amphicyrtic (Gr. ἀμφί, on both sides, κυρτόσ, convex) or cissoidal (Gr. κισσόσ, ivy), biconvex; xystroidal or sistroidal (Gr. ξυστρίσ, a tool for scraping), concavo-convex; amphicoelic (Gr. κοίλη, a hollow) or angulus lunularis, biconcave.
Two intersecting planes form an angle, called their dihedral angle. It is defined as the angle between two lines normal to the planes.
Also a plane and an intersecting line form an angle. This angle is equal to π/2 radians minus the angle between the intersecting line and the line that goes through the point of intersection and is perpendicular to the plane.
Angles in Riemannian geometry
In Riemannian geometry, the metric tensor is used to define the angle between two tangents. Where U and V are tangent vectors and gij are the components of the metric tensor G,
Angles in astronomy
In astronomy, one can measure the angular separation of two stars by imagining two lines through the Earth, each one intersecting one of the stars. Then the angle between those lines can be measured; this is the angular separation between the two stars.
Astronomers also measure the apparent size of objects. For example, the full moon has an angular measurement of 0.5°, when viewed from Earth. One could say, "The Moon subtends an angle of half a degree." The small-angle formula can be used to convert such an angular measurement into a distance/size ratio.
Angles in maritime navigation
The modern format of angle used to indicate longitude or latitude is hemisphere degree minute.decimal, where there are 60 minutes in a degree, for instance N 51 23.438 or E 090 58.928.
The obsolete (but still commonly used) format of angle used to indicate longitude or latitude is hemisphere degree minute' second", where there are 60 minutes in a degree and 60 seconds in a minute, for instance N 51 23′26″ or E 090 58′57″