**polar coordinates**, system of locating points in a plane with reference to a fixed point O (the origin) and a ray from the origin usually chosen to be the positive x-axis. The coordinates are written (*r,**θ*), in which *r*is the distance from the origin to any desired point P and *θ*is the angle made by the line OP and the axis. A simple relationship exists between Cartesian coordinates(*x,y*) and the polar coordinates (*r,**θ*)*,*namely: *x*= *r*cos *θ,*and *y*= *r*sin *θ*.

An analog of polar coordinates, called spherical coordinates, may also be used to locate points in three-dimensional space. The system used involves again the distance from the origin O to a given point P, the angle *θ,*measured between OP and the positive *z*axis, and a second angle *ϕ,*measured between the positive *x*axis and the projection of OP onto the *x,y*plane. Those angles are essentially the colatitude and longitude used to express locations on the Earth’s surface, where the colatitude is 90 degrees minus the latitude.

Citation Information

Article Title:
polar coordinates

Website Name:
Encyclopaedia Britannica

Publisher:
Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.

Date Published:
07 October 2021

Access Date:
October 23, 2021