*Macmillan Science Library: Mathematics*. Copyright © 2001-2006 by Macmillan Reference USA, an imprint of the Gale Group. All rights reserved.

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## Understanding Polar Coordinates

As with the two-dimensional Cartesian coordinate system, one can describe the location of points in a polar coordinate system by means of coordinates. Both systems involve an origin point and axis lines. In the polar coordinate system a single axis, or a polar axis, extends indefinitely from the origin, known in the polar coordinate system as the pole. This polar axis is a fixed line and the location of all points and figures is based on this fixed, polar axis. Every point in the polar coordinate system is described in terms of the **directed distance** the point is from the pole, and the angle of rotation the directed distance line makes with the polar axis.

In the diagram below, Point P is on a directed distance line that is at an angle *θ* from the polar axis. Point P is at a distance...

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