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In this section, you will:
  • Graph parabolas with vertices at the origin.
  • Write equations of parabolas in standard form.
  • Graph parabolas with vertices not at the origin.
  • Solve applied problems involving parabolas.
The Olympic torch concludes its journey around the world when it is used to light the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremony. (credit: Ken Hackman, U.S. Air Force)

Did you know that the Olympic torch is lit several months before the start of the games? The ceremonial method for lighting the flame is the same as in ancient times. The ceremony takes place at the Temple of Hera in Olympia, Greece, and is rooted in Greek mythology, paying tribute to Prometheus, who stole fire from Zeus to give to all humans. One of eleven acting priestesses places the torch at the focus of a parabolic mirror (see [link] ), which focuses light rays from the sun to ignite the flame.

Parabolic mirrors (or reflectors) are able to capture energy and focus it to a single point. The advantages of this property are evidenced by the vast list of parabolic objects we use every day: satellite dishes, suspension bridges, telescopes, microphones, spotlights, and car headlights, to name a few. Parabolic reflectors are also used in alternative energy devices, such as solar cookers and water heaters, because they are inexpensive to manufacture and need little maintenance. In this section we will explore the parabola and its uses, including low-cost, energy-efficient solar designs.

Graphing parabolas with vertices at the origin

In The Ellipse , we saw that an ellipse    is formed when a plane cuts through a right circular cone. If the plane is parallel to the edge of the cone, an unbounded curve is formed. This curve is a parabola    . See [link] .

Parabola

Like the ellipse and hyperbola    , the parabola can also be defined by a set of points in the coordinate plane. A parabola is the set of all points ( x , y ) in a plane that are the same distance from a fixed line, called the directrix    , and a fixed point (the focus ) not on the directrix.

In Quadratic Functions , we learned about a parabola’s vertex and axis of symmetry. Now we extend the discussion to include other key features of the parabola. See [link] . Notice that the axis of symmetry passes through the focus and vertex and is perpendicular to the directrix. The vertex is the midpoint between the directrix and the focus.

The line segment that passes through the focus and is parallel to the directrix is called the latus rectum    . The endpoints of the latus rectum lie on the curve. By definition, the distance d from the focus to any point P on the parabola is equal to the distance from P to the directrix.

Key features of the parabola

To work with parabolas in the coordinate plane , we consider two cases: those with a vertex at the origin and those with a vertex    at a point other than the origin. We begin with the former.

Let ( x , y ) be a point on the parabola with vertex ( 0 , 0 ) , focus ( 0 , p ) , and directrix y = − p as shown in [link] . The distance d from point ( x , y ) to point ( x , p ) on the directrix is the difference of the y -values: d = y + p . The distance from the focus ( 0 , p ) to the point ( x , y ) is also equal to d and can be expressed using the distance formula    .

Questions & Answers

use the y -intercept and slope to sketch the graph of the equation y=6x
Only Reply
how do we prove the quadratic formular
Seidu Reply
hello, if you have a question about Algebra 2. I may be able to help. I am an Algebra 2 Teacher
Shirley Reply
thank you help me with how to prove the quadratic equation
Seidu
may God blessed u for that. Please I want u to help me in sets.
Opoku
what is math number
Tric Reply
4
Trista
x-2y+3z=-3 2x-y+z=7 -x+3y-z=6
Sidiki Reply
Need help solving this problem (2/7)^-2
Simone Reply
x+2y-z=7
Sidiki
what is the coefficient of -4×
Mehri Reply
-1
Shedrak
the operation * is x * y =x + y/ 1+(x × y) show if the operation is commutative if x × y is not equal to -1
Alfred Reply
An investment account was opened with an initial deposit of $9,600 and earns 7.4% interest, compounded continuously. How much will the account be worth after 15 years?
Kala Reply
lim x to infinity e^1-e^-1/log(1+x)
given eccentricity and a point find the equiation
Moses Reply
12, 17, 22.... 25th term
Alexandra Reply
12, 17, 22.... 25th term
Akash
College algebra is really hard?
Shirleen Reply
Absolutely, for me. My problems with math started in First grade...involving a nun Sister Anastasia, bad vision, talking & getting expelled from Catholic school. When it comes to math I just can't focus and all I can hear is our family silverware banging and clanging on the pink Formica table.
Carole
I'm 13 and I understand it great
AJ
I am 1 year old but I can do it! 1+1=2 proof very hard for me though.
Atone
Not really they are just easy concepts which can be understood if you have great basics. I am 14 I understood them easily.
Vedant
hi vedant can u help me with some assignments
Solomon
find the 15th term of the geometric sequince whose first is 18 and last term of 387
Jerwin Reply
I know this work
salma
The given of f(x=x-2. then what is the value of this f(3) 5f(x+1)
virgelyn Reply
hmm well what is the answer
Abhi
If f(x) = x-2 then, f(3) when 5f(x+1) 5((3-2)+1) 5(1+1) 5(2) 10
Augustine
Practice Key Terms 4

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Source:  OpenStax, College algebra. OpenStax CNX. Feb 06, 2015 Download for free at https://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11759/1.3
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