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Finding an Angle

Date: 08/09/2002 at 08:43:00
From: Timo Petmanson
Subject: Sine and cosine maths


I need to know how to calculate an angle between two 2D points. I know 
how to calculate a new point by angle, but I can't figure out how 

Calculating by angle:

a = 143 // this is the angle
x = 1   // 2d point x coord
y = 1   // 2d point y coord
u = 3   // how many units we change coords

So, if we want to change point's coordinates by angle, then we must 

x = x + SIN(a * (pi / 180)) * u  // (pi / 180)radians to degrees
y = y + COS(a * (pi / 180)) * u  // I hope I didn't change sin and cos

but what must I do to calculate the angle?

x1 = 1
y1 = 1
x2 = (-1)
y2 = (-5)

|      (x2,y2)
|      /
|    /
|   /
|  /
| /
(x1,y1)------------ 90

I hope you understood my problem. Thanks.


Date: 08/09/2002 at 09:48:14
From: Doctor Rick
Subject: Re: Sine and cosine maths

Hi, Timo.

Yes, I understand: you know how to find the coordinates of a point 
given the starting point, angle and distance, but you don't know how 
to do the reverse - calculate the angle given the starting point and 
ending point. (You probably do know how to calculate the distance.)

We can take your equations as a starting point. You did have sin and 
cos interchanged, if the angle is measured counterclockwise from the 
positive x axis as we usually do. I'll call the two points (x1,y1) 
and (x2,y2).

  x2 = x1 + cos(a * (pi / 180)) * u
  y2 = y1 + sin(a * (pi / 180)) * u

Subtract the starting point coordinates:

  x2 - x1 = cos(a * (pi / 180)) * u
  y2 - y1 = sin(a * (pi / 180)) * u

Divide the second equation by the first:

  (y2-y1)/(x2-x1) = (sin(a*pi/180)*u)/(cos(a*pi/180)*u)

What is sin/cos? It's the tangent.

  (y2-y1)/(x2-x1) = tan(a*pi/180)

We can find the angle by taking the inverse tangent (arctan) of both 

  a*pi/180 = arctan((y2-y1)/(x2-x1))

  a = 180/pi * arctan((y2-y1)/(x2-x1))

There's your formula. However, there are some tricky things to add. 
One is that x2 may equal x1, and you'll get a divide-by-zero error. 
Another is that the arctan won't distinguish between the angle from 
point 1 to point 2 and the angle from point 2 to point 1. These should 
be 180 degrees apart, but they will come out identical. In summary, to 
do it right, you need to consider separate cases for x2-x1 negative, 
zero or positive.

It looks as if you're writing a program in C++. If so, check out the 
function atan2(y,x). It computes the arctangent of y/x, and it takes 
care of those special cases too, because it is designed for exactly 
the sort of thing you are doing.

- Doctor Rick, The Math Forum 

Date: 08/20/2002 at 14:10:09
From: Timo Petmanson
Subject: Thank you (sine and cosine maths)

Thanks, that helped me.  I was working on a computer game and I needed 
that formula for the movements.
Associated Topics:
High School Calculators, Computers
High School Trigonometry

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