Spherical geometry

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Spherical geometry is the geometry of the two-dimensional surface of a sphere. It is an example of a non-Euclidean geometry.

In plane geometry the basic concepts are points and line. On the sphere, points are defined in the usual sense. The equivalents of lines are not defined in the usual sense of "straight line" but in the sense of "the shortest paths between points" which is called a geodesic. On the sphere the geodesics are the great circles, so the other geometric concepts are defined like in plane geometry but with lines replaced by great circles. Thus, in spherical geometry angles are defined between great circles, resulting in a spherical trigonometry that differs from ordinary trigonometry in many respects (for example, the sum of the interior angles of a triangle exceeds 180 degrees).

Spherical geometry is the simplest model of elliptic geometry, in which a line has no parallels through a given point. Contrast this with hyperbolic geometry, in which a line has at least two parallels through a given point.

Spherical geometry has important practical uses in celestial navigation and astronomy.

An important related geometry related to that modeled by the sphere is called the real projective plane; it is obtained by identifying antipodes (pairs of opposite points) on the sphere. Locally, the projective plane has all the properties of spherical geometry, but it has different global properties. In particular, it is non-orientable.

See also

de:Sphärische Geometrie