polar coordinate system


A system of coordinates in which the location of a point is determined by its distance from a fixed point at the center of the coordinate space (called the pole) and by the measurement of the angle formed by a fixed line (the polar axis, corresponding to the x-axis in Cartesian coordinates) and a line from the pole through the given point. The polar coordinates of a point are given as (r, θ), where r is the distance of the point from the pole, and θ is the measure of the angle. Compare Cartesian coordinate system.

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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.