Pedal equation

For a plane curve C and a given fixed point O, the pedal equation of the curve is a relation between r and p where r is the distance from O to a point on C and p is the perpendicular distance from O to the tangent line to C at the point. The point O is called the pedal point and the values r and p are sometimes called the pedal coordinates of a point relative to the curve and the pedal point. Some curves have particularly simple pedal equations and knowing the pedal equation of a curve may simplify the calculation of certain of its properties such as curvature.


Cartesian coordinates

For C given in rectangular coordinates by f(x, y) = 0, and with O taken to be the origin, the pedal coordinates of the point (x, y) are given by:[1]

The pedal equation can be found by eliminating x and y from these equations and the equation of the curve.

The expression for p may be simplified if the equation of the curve is written in homogeneous coordinates by introducing a variable z, so that the equation of the curve is g(x, y, z) = 0. The value of p is then given by[2]

where the result is evaluated at z=1

Polar coordinates

For C given in polar coordinates by r = f(θ), then

where ψ is the polar tangential angle given by

The pedal equation can be found by eliminating θ from these equations.[3]

Pedal equations for specific curves

Sinusoidal spirals

For a sinusoidal spiral written in the form

the polar tangential angle is

which produces the pedal equation

The pedal equation for a number of familiar curves can be obtained setting n to specific values:[4]

n Curve Pedal point Pedal eq.
1 Circle with radius a Point on circumference pa = r2
−1 Line Point distance a from line p = a
12 Cardioid Cusp p2a = r3
12 Parabola Focus p2 = ar
2 Lemniscate of Bernoulli Center pa2 = r3
−2 Rectangular hyperbola Center rp = a2

Epi- and hypocycloids

For a epi- or hypocycloid given by parametric equations

the pedal equation with respect to the origin is[5]



Special cases obtained by setting b=an for specific values of n include:

n Curve Pedal eq.
1, −12 Cardioid
2, −23 Nephroid
−3, −32 Deltoid
−4, −43 Astroid

Other curves

Other pedal equations are:[7]

Curve Equation Pedal point Pedal eq.
Ellipse Center
Hyperbola Center
Ellipse Focus
Hyperbola Focus
Logarithmic spiral Pole

See also


  1. Yates §1
  2. Edwards p. 161
  3. Yates p. 166, Edwards p. 162
  4. Yates p. 168, Edwards p. 162
  5. Edwards p. 163
  6. Yates p. 163
  7. Yates p. 169, Edwards p. 163

External links

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