Convert Polar to Cartesian Coordinates

Point in the Polar and Cartesian System

To convert a point from the polar coordinate system to cartesian coordinate system the functions sine function and cosine function are used to solve for the and component of the point. A point in the polar coordinate system is in the form of and a point in the cartesian coordinate system is in the form of . The conversion is given in the equations below:

By convention, radians are used to measure angles in polar coordinates. Calculators often provide the option to switch between radians and degrees.

Convert Polar to Cartesian Example

For example, the following expression shows how to convert the point , where the length of the radius is and the angle is (tau) divided by eight, to its cartesian form. Note, is equivalent to .

The polar point is equivalent to the cartesian point . This relationship is illustrated by the geometry of the special triangle below.

Point in the Polar and Cartesian System

Explanation

Both systems describe the position of a point in space. A point in the Polar Coordinate System is defined in terms of a radius and an angle: . A point in the Cartesian Coordinate System is defined in terms of a and component: . Both define the point relative to the origin of the system. Geometrically, the two points can be described by the right triangle below.

Polar Coordinates Point

The definitions of the functions sine and cosine can be written out and the variables representing the corresponding lengths can be substituted in.

Finally, since we are interested in solving for the and components, we can solve for both in each equation by multiplying both sides by .

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Polar Coordinate System | Concept

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