Circumscribed circle

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Circumscribed circle, C, and circumcenter, O, of a cyclic polygon, P Circumscribed Polygon.svg
Circumscribed circle, C, and circumcenter, O, of a cyclic polygon, P

In geometry, the circumscribed circle or circumcircle of a polygon is a circle that passes through all the vertices of the polygon. The center of this circle is called the circumcenter and its radius is called the circumradius.


Not every polygon has a circumscribed circle. A polygon that does have one is called a cyclic polygon, or sometimes a concyclic polygon because its vertices are concyclic. All triangles, all regular simple polygons, all rectangles, all isosceles trapezoids, and all right kites are cyclic.

A related notion is the one of a minimum bounding circle, which is the smallest circle that completely contains the polygon within it, if the circle's center is within the polygon. Every polygon has a unique minimum bounding circle, which may be constructed by a linear time algorithm. [1] Even if a polygon has a circumscribed circle, it may be different from its minimum bounding circle. For example, for an obtuse triangle, the minimum bounding circle has the longest side as diameter and does not pass through the opposite vertex.


All triangles are cyclic; that is, every triangle has a circumscribed circle.

Straightedge and compass construction

Construction of the circumcircle of triangle ABC (
{\displaystyle \Delta ABC}
) and the circumcenter Q Circumcenter Construction.svg
Construction of the circumcircle of triangle ABC () and the circumcenter Q

The circumcenter of a triangle can be constructed by drawing any two of the three perpendicular bisectors. For three non-collinear points, these two lines cannot be parallel, and the circumcenter is the point where they cross. Any point on the bisector is equidistant from the two points that it bisects, from which it follows that this point, on both bisectors, is equidistant from all three triangle vertices. The circumradius is the distance from it to any of the three vertices.

Alternative construction

Alternative construction of the circumcenter (intersection of broken lines) Triangle circumcenter alternate construction.png
Alternative construction of the circumcenter (intersection of broken lines)

An alternative method to determine the circumcenter is to draw any two lines each one departing from one of the vertices at an angle with the common side, the common angle of departure being 90° minus the angle of the opposite vertex. (In the case of the opposite angle being obtuse, drawing a line at a negative angle means going outside the triangle.)

In coastal navigation, a triangle's circumcircle is sometimes used as a way of obtaining a position line using a sextant when no compass is available. The horizontal angle between two landmarks defines the circumcircle upon which the observer lies.

Circumcircle equations

Cartesian coordinates

In the Euclidean plane, it is possible to give explicitly an equation of the circumcircle in terms of the Cartesian coordinates of the vertices of the inscribed triangle. Suppose that

are the coordinates of points A, B, and C. The circumcircle is then the locus of points v = (vx,vy) in the Cartesian plane satisfying the equations

guaranteeing that the points A, B, C, and v are all the same distance r from the common center u of the circle. Using the polarization identity, these equations reduce to the condition that the matrix

has a nonzero kernel. Thus the circumcircle may alternatively be described as the locus of zeros of the determinant of this matrix:

Using cofactor expansion, let

we then have a|v|2 − 2Svb = 0 and, assuming the three points were not in a line (otherwise the circumcircle is that line that can also be seen as a generalized circle with S at infinity), |vS/a|2 = b/a + |S|2/a2, giving the circumcenter S/a and the circumradius b/a + |S|2/a2. A similar approach allows one to deduce the equation of the circumsphere of a tetrahedron.

Parametric equation

A unit vector perpendicular to the plane containing the circle is given by

Hence, given the radius, r, center, Pc, a point on the circle, P0 and a unit normal of the plane containing the circle, , one parametric equation of the circle starting from the point P0 and proceeding in a positively oriented (i.e., right-handed) sense about is the following:

Trilinear and barycentric coordinates

An equation for the circumcircle in trilinear coordinates x : y : z is [2] a/x + b/y + c/z = 0. An equation for the circumcircle in barycentric coordinates x : y : z is a2/x + b2/y + c2/z = 0.

The isogonal conjugate of the circumcircle is the line at infinity, given in trilinear coordinates by ax + by + cz = 0 and in barycentric coordinates by x + y + z = 0.

Higher dimensions

Additionally, the circumcircle of a triangle embedded in d dimensions can be found using a generalized method. Let A, B, and C be d-dimensional points, which form the vertices of a triangle. We start by transposing the system to place C at the origin:

The circumradius, r, is then

where θ is the interior angle between a and b. The circumcenter, p0, is given by

This formula only works in three dimensions as the cross product is not defined in other dimensions, but it can be generalized to the other dimensions by replacing the cross products with following identities:

Circumcenter coordinates

Cartesian coordinates

The Cartesian coordinates of the circumcenter are


Without loss of generality this can be expressed in a simplified form after translation of the vertex A to the origin of the Cartesian coordinate systems, i.e., when A′ = AA = (Ax,Ay) = (0,0). In this case, the coordinates of the vertices B′ = BA and C′ = CA represent the vectors from vertex A′ to these vertices. Observe that this trivial translation is possible for all triangles and the circumcenter of the triangle ABC′ follow as


Due to the translation of vertex A to the origin, the circumradius r can be computed as

and the actual circumcenter of ABC follows as

Trilinear coordinates

The circumcenter has trilinear coordinates [3]

cos α : cos β : cos γ

where α, β, γ are the angles of the triangle.

In terms of the side lengths a, b, c, the trilinears are [4]

Barycentric coordinates

The circumcenter has barycentric coordinates


where a, b, c are edge lengths (BC, CA, AB respectively) of the triangle.

In terms of the triangle's angles the barycentric coordinates of the circumcenter are [4]

Circumcenter vector

Since the Cartesian coordinates of any point are a weighted average of those of the vertices, with the weights being the point's barycentric coordinates normalized to sum to unity, the circumcenter vector can be written as

Here U is the vector of the circumcenter and A, B, C are the vertex vectors. The divisor here equals 16S2 where S is the area of the triangle. As stated previously

Cartesian coordinates from cross- and dot-products

In Euclidean space, there is a unique circle passing through any given three non-collinear points P1, P2, and P3. Using Cartesian coordinates to represent these points as spatial vectors, it is possible to use the dot product and cross product to calculate the radius and center of the circle. Let

Then the radius of the circle is given by

The center of the circle is given by the linear combination


Location relative to the triangle

The circumcenter's position depends on the type of triangle:

  • For an acute triangle (all angles smaller than a right angle), the circumcenter always lies inside the triangle.
  • For a right triangle, the circumcenter always lies at the midpoint of the hypotenuse. This is one form of Thales' theorem.
  • For an obtuse triangle (a triangle with one angle bigger than a right angle), the circumcenter always lies outside the triangle.
Triangle (Acute) Circumscribed.svg
The circumcenter of an acute triangle is inside the triangle
Triangle (Right) Circumscribed.svg
The circumcenter of a right triangle is at the midpoint of the hypotenuse
Triangle (Obtuse) Circumscribed.svg
The circumcenter of an obtuse triangle is outside the triangle

These locational features can be seen by considering the trilinear or barycentric coordinates given above for the circumcenter: all three coordinates are positive for any interior point, at least one coordinate is negative for any exterior point, and one coordinate is zero and two are positive for a non-vertex point on a side of the triangle.


Circumcircle Angles 1.svg
Circumcircle Angles 2.svg

The angles which the circumscribed circle forms with the sides of the triangle coincide with angles at which sides meet each other. The side opposite angle α meets the circle twice: once at each end; in each case at angle α (similarly for the other two angles). This is due to the alternate segment theorem, which states that the angle between the tangent and chord equals the angle in the alternate segment.

Triangle centers on the circumcircle of triangle ABC

In this section, the vertex angles are labeled A, B, C and all coordinates are trilinear coordinates:

Other properties

The diameter of the circumcircle, called the circumdiameter and equal to twice the circumradius, can be computed as the length of any side of the triangle divided by the sine of the opposite angle:

As a consequence of the law of sines, it does not matter which side and opposite angle are taken: the result will be the same.

The diameter of the circumcircle can also be expressed as

where a, b, c are the lengths of the sides of the triangle and s = (a + b + c)/2 is the semiperimeter. The expression above is the area of the triangle, by Heron's formula. [6] Trigonometric expressions for the diameter of the circumcircle include [7]

The triangle's nine-point circle has half the diameter of the circumcircle.

In any given triangle, the circumcenter is always collinear with the centroid and orthocenter. The line that passes through all of them is known as the Euler line.

The isogonal conjugate of the circumcenter is the orthocenter.

The useful minimum bounding circle of three points is defined either by the circumcircle (where three points are on the minimum bounding circle) or by the two points of the longest side of the triangle (where the two points define a diameter of the circle). It is common to confuse the minimum bounding circle with the circumcircle.

The circumcircle of three collinear points is the line on which the three points lie, often referred to as a circle of infinite radius. Nearly collinear points often lead to numerical instability in computation of the circumcircle.

Circumcircles of triangles have an intimate relationship with the Delaunay triangulation of a set of points.

By Euler's theorem in geometry, the distance between the circumcenter O and the incenter I is

where r is the incircle radius and R is the circumcircle radius; hence the circumradius is at least twice the inradius (Euler's triangle inequality), with equality only in the equilateral case. [8] [9]

The distance between O and the orthocenter H is [10] [11]

For centroid G and nine-point center N we have

The product of the incircle radius and the circumcircle radius of a triangle with sides a, b, and c is [12]

With circumradius R, sides a, b, c, and medians ma, mb, and mc, we have [13]

If median m, altitude h, and internal bisector t all emanate from the same vertex of a triangle with circumradius R, then [14]

Carnot's theorem states that the sum of the distances from the circumcenter to the three sides equals the sum of the circumradius and the inradius. [15] Here a segment's length is considered to be negative if and only if the segment lies entirely outside the triangle.

If a triangle has two particular circles as its circumcircle and incircle, there exist an infinite number of other triangles with the same circumcircle and incircle, with any point on the circumcircle as a vertex. (This is the n = 3 case of Poncelet's porism). A necessary and sufficient condition for such triangles to exist is the above equality [16]

Cyclic quadrilaterals

Cyclic quadrilaterals Cyclic quadrilateral.svg
Cyclic quadrilaterals

Quadrilaterals that can be circumscribed have particular properties including the fact that opposite angles are supplementary angles (adding up to 180° or π radians).

Cyclic n-gons

For a cyclic polygon with an odd number of sides, all angles are equal if and only if the polygon is regular. A cyclic polygon with an even number of sides has all angles equal if and only if the alternate sides are equal (that is, sides 1, 3, 5, ... are equal, and sides 2, 4, 6, ... are equal). [17]

A cyclic pentagon with rational sides and area is known as a Robbins pentagon; in all known cases, its diagonals also have rational lengths. [18]

In any cyclic n-gon with even n, the sum of one set of alternate angles (the first, third, fifth, etc.) equals the sum of the other set of alternate angles. This can be proven by induction from the n=4 case, in each case replacing a side with three more sides and noting that these three new sides together with the old side form a quadrilateral which itself has this property; the alternate angles of the latter quadrilateral represent the additions to the alternate angle sums of the previous n-gon.

Let one n-gon be inscribed in a circle, and let another n-gon be tangential to that circle at the vertices of the first n-gon. Then from any point P on the circle, the product of the perpendicular distances from P to the sides of the first n-gon equals the product of the perpendicular distances from P to the sides of the second n-gon. [19]

Point on the circumcircle

Let a cyclic n-gon have vertices A1 , ..., An on the unit circle. Then for any point M on the minor arc A1An, the distances from M to the vertices satisfy [20]

For a regular n-gon, if are the distances from any point on the circumcircle to the vertices , then [21]

Polygon circumscribing constant

A sequence of circumscribed polygons and circles. Kepler constant inverse.svg
A sequence of circumscribed polygons and circles.

Any regular polygon is cyclic. Consider a unit circle, then circumscribe a regular triangle such that each side touches the circle. Circumscribe a circle, then circumscribe a square. Again circumscribe a circle, then circumscribe a regular pentagon, and so on. The radii of the circumscribed circles converge to the so-called polygon circumscribing constant

(sequence A051762 in the OEIS ). The reciprocal of this constant is the Kepler–Bouwkamp constant.

See also

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Cyclic quadrilateral Quadrilateral whose vertices can all fall on a single circle

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Thaless theorem Angle formed by a point on a circle and the 2 ends of a diameter is a right angle

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Incenter The center of the inscribed circle of a triangle

In geometry, the incenter of a triangle is a triangle center, a point defined for any triangle in a way that is independent of the triangle's placement or scale. The incenter may be equivalently defined as the point where the internal angle bisectors of the triangle cross, as the point equidistant from the triangle's sides, as the junction point of the medial axis and innermost point of the grassfire transform of the triangle, and as the center point of the inscribed circle of the triangle.

Concyclic points

In geometry, a set of points are said to be concyclic if they lie on a common circle. All concyclic points are at the same distance from the center of the circle. Three points in the plane that do not all fall on a straight line are concyclic, but four or more such points in the plane are not necessarily concyclic.

In linear algebra, a rotation matrix is a transformation matrix that is used to perform a rotation in Euclidean space. For example, using the convention below, the matrix

Eulers rotation theorem Movement with a fixed point is rotation

In geometry, Euler's rotation theorem states that, in three-dimensional space, any displacement of a rigid body such that a point on the rigid body remains fixed, is equivalent to a single rotation about some axis that runs through the fixed point. It also means that the composition of two rotations is also a rotation. Therefore the set of rotations has a group structure, known as a rotation group.

Area of a circle

In geometry, the area enclosed by a circle of radius r is πr2. Here the Greek letter π represents the constant ratio of the circumference of any circle to its diameter, approximately equal to 3.1416.

In geometry, various formalisms exist to express a rotation in three dimensions as a mathematical transformation. In physics, this concept is applied to classical mechanics where rotational kinematics is the science of quantitative description of a purely rotational motion. The orientation of an object at a given instant is described with the same tools, as it is defined as an imaginary rotation from a reference placement in space, rather than an actually observed rotation from a previous placement in space.

Bicentric polygon

In geometry, a bicentric polygon is a tangential polygon which is also cyclic — that is, inscribed in an outer circle that passes through each vertex of the polygon. All triangles and all regular polygons are bicentric. On the other hand, a rectangle with unequal sides is not bicentric, because no circle can be tangent to all four sides.

Bicentric quadrilateral Type of shape

In Euclidean geometry, a bicentric quadrilateral is a convex quadrilateral that has both an incircle and a circumcircle. The radii and center of these circles are called inradius and circumradius, and incenter and circumcenter respectively. From the definition it follows that bicentric quadrilaterals have all the properties of both tangential quadrilaterals and cyclic quadrilaterals. Other names for these quadrilaterals are chord-tangent quadrilateral and inscribed and circumscribed quadrilateral. It has also rarely been called a double circle quadrilateral and double scribed quadrilateral.


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