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In this section, you will:
  • Use the Law of Sines to solve oblique triangles.
  • Find the area of an oblique triangle using the sine function.
  • Solve applied problems using the Law of Sines.

Suppose two radar stations located 20 miles apart each detect an aircraft between them. The angle of elevation measured by the first station is 35 degrees, whereas the angle of elevation    measured by the second station is 15 degrees. How can we determine the altitude of the aircraft? We see in [link] that the triangle formed by the aircraft and the two stations is not a right triangle, so we cannot use what we know about right triangles. In this section, we will find out how to solve problems involving non-right triangles .

A diagram of a triangle where the vertices are the first ground station, the second ground station, and the airplane in the air between them. The angle between the first ground station and the plane is 15 degrees, and the angle between the second station and the airplane is 35 degrees. The side between the two stations is of length 20 miles. There is a dotted line perpendicular to the ground side connecting the airplane vertex with the ground - an altitude line.

Using the law of sines to solve oblique triangles

In any triangle, we can draw an altitude    , a perpendicular line from one vertex to the opposite side, forming two right triangles. It would be preferable, however, to have methods that we can apply directly to non-right triangles without first having to create right triangles.

Any triangle that is not a right triangle is an oblique triangle    . Solving an oblique triangle means finding the measurements of all three angles and all three sides. To do so, we need to start with at least three of these values, including at least one of the sides. We will investigate three possible oblique triangle problem situations:

  1. ASA (angle-side-angle) We know the measurements of two angles and the included side. See [link] .
    An oblique triangle consisting of angles alpha, beta, and gamma. Alpha and gamma's values are known, as is the side opposite beta, between alpha and gamma.
  2. AAS (angle-angle-side) We know the measurements of two angles and a side that is not between the known angles. See [link] .
    An oblique triangle consisting of angles alpha, beta, and gamma. Alpha and gamma are known, as is the side opposite alpha, between beta and gamma.
  3. SSA (side-side-angle) We know the measurements of two sides and an angle that is not between the known sides. See [link] .
    An oblique triangle consisting of angles alpha, beta, and gamma. Alpha is the only angle known. Two sides are known. The first is opposite alpha, between beta and gamma, and the second is opposite gamma, between alpha and beta.

Knowing how to approach each of these situations enables us to solve oblique triangles without having to drop a perpendicular to form two right triangles. Instead, we can use the fact that the ratio of the measurement of one of the angles to the length of its opposite side will be equal to the other two ratios of angle measure to opposite side. Let’s see how this statement is derived by considering the triangle shown in [link] .

An oblique triangle consisting of sides a, b, and c, and angles alpha, beta, and gamma. Side c is opposide angle gamma and is the horizontal base of the triangle. Side b is opposite angle beta, and side a is opposite angle alpha. There is a dotted perpendicular line - an altitude - from the gamma angle to the horizontal base c.

Using the right triangle relationships, we know that sin α = h b and sin β = h a . Solving both equations for h gives two different expressions for h .

h = b sin α  and  h = a sin β

We then set the expressions equal to each other.

            b sin α = a sin β   ( 1 a b ) ( b sin α ) = ( a sin β ) ( 1 a b ) Multiply both sides by 1 a b .                sin α a = sin β b

Similarly, we can compare the other ratios.

sin α a = sin γ c  and  sin β b = sin γ c

Collectively, these relationships are called the Law of Sines .

sin α a = sin β b = sin λ c

Note the standard way of labeling triangles: angle α (alpha) is opposite side a ; angle β (beta) is opposite side b ; and angle γ (gamma) is opposite side c . See [link] .

While calculating angles and sides, be sure to carry the exact values through to the final answer. Generally, final answers are rounded to the nearest tenth, unless otherwise specified.

A triangle with standard labels.

Law of sines

Given a triangle with angles and opposite sides labeled as in [link] , the ratio of the measurement of an angle to the length of its opposite side will be equal to the other two ratios of angle measure to opposite side. All proportions will be equal. The Law of Sines    is based on proportions and is presented symbolically two ways.

sin α a = sin β b = sin γ c
a sin α = b sin β = c sin γ

To solve an oblique triangle, use any pair of applicable ratios.

Questions & Answers

I've run into this: x = r*cos(angle1 + angle2) Which expands to: x = r(cos(angle1)*cos(angle2) - sin(angle1)*sin(angle2)) The r value confuses me here, because distributing it makes: (r*cos(angle2))(cos(angle1) - (r*sin(angle2))(sin(angle1)) How does this make sense? Why does the r distribute once
Carlos Reply
How can you tell what type of parent function a graph is ?
Mary Reply
generally by how the graph looks and understanding what the base parent functions look like and perform on a graph
William
if you have a graphed line, you can have an idea by how the directions of the line turns, i.e. negative, positive, zero
William
y=x will obviously be a straight line with a zero slope
William
y=x^2 will have a parabolic line opening to positive infinity on both sides of the y axis vice versa with y=-x^2 you'll have both ends of the parabolic line pointing downward heading to negative infinity on both sides of the y axis
William
y=x will be a straight line, but it will have a slope of one. Remember, if y=1 then x=1, so for every unit you rise you move over positively one unit. To get a straight line with a slope of 0, set y=1 or any integer.
Aaron
yes, correction on my end, I meant slope of 1 instead of slope of 0
William
what is f(x)=
Karim Reply
I don't understand
Joe
Typically a function 'f' will take 'x' as input, and produce 'y' as output. As 'f(x)=y'. According to Google, "The range of a function is the complete set of all possible resulting values of the dependent variable (y, usually), after we have substituted the domain."
Thomas
Sorry, I don't know where the "Â"s came from. They shouldn't be there. Just ignore them. :-)
Thomas
GREAT ANSWER THOUGH!!!
Darius
Thanks.
Thomas
Â
Thomas
It is the  that should not be there. It doesn't seem to show if encloses in quotation marks. "Â" or 'Â' ... Â
Thomas
Now it shows, go figure?
Thomas
what is this?
unknown Reply
i do not understand anything
unknown
lol...it gets better
Darius
I've been struggling so much through all of this. my final is in four weeks 😭
Tiffany
this book is an excellent resource! have you guys ever looked at the online tutoring? there's one that is called "That Tutor Guy" and he goes over a lot of the concepts
Darius
thank you I have heard of him. I should check him out.
Tiffany
is there any question in particular?
Joe
I have always struggled with math. I get lost really easy, if you have any advice for that, it would help tremendously.
Tiffany
Sure, are you in high school or college?
Darius
Hi, apologies for the delayed response. I'm in college.
Tiffany
how to solve polynomial using a calculator
Ef Reply
So a horizontal compression by factor of 1/2 is the same as a horizontal stretch by a factor of 2, right?
KARMEL Reply
The center is at (3,4) a focus is at (3,-1), and the lenght of the major axis is 26
Rima Reply
The center is at (3,4) a focus is at (3,-1) and the lenght of the major axis is 26 what will be the answer?
Rima
I done know
Joe
What kind of answer is that😑?
Rima
I had just woken up when i got this message
Joe
Can you please help me. Tomorrow is the deadline of my assignment then I don't know how to solve that
Rima
i have a question.
Abdul
how do you find the real and complex roots of a polynomial?
Abdul
@abdul with delta maybe which is b(square)-4ac=result then the 1st root -b-radical delta over 2a and the 2nd root -b+radical delta over 2a. I am not sure if this was your question but check it up
Nare
This is the actual question: Find all roots(real and complex) of the polynomial f(x)=6x^3 + x^2 - 4x + 1
Abdul
@Nare please let me know if you can solve it.
Abdul
I have a question
juweeriya
hello guys I'm new here? will you happy with me
mustapha
The average annual population increase of a pack of wolves is 25.
Brittany Reply
how do you find the period of a sine graph
Imani Reply
Period =2π if there is a coefficient (b), just divide the coefficient by 2π to get the new period
Am
if not then how would I find it from a graph
Imani
by looking at the graph, find the distance between two consecutive maximum points (the highest points of the wave). so if the top of one wave is at point A (1,2) and the next top of the wave is at point B (6,2), then the period is 5, the difference of the x-coordinates.
Am
you could also do it with two consecutive minimum points or x-intercepts
Am
I will try that thank u
Imani
Case of Equilateral Hyperbola
Jhon Reply
ok
Zander
ok
Shella
f(x)=4x+2, find f(3)
Benetta
f(3)=4(3)+2 f(3)=14
lamoussa
14
Vedant
pre calc teacher: "Plug in Plug in...smell's good" f(x)=14
Devante
8x=40
Chris
Explain why log a x is not defined for a < 0
Baptiste Reply
the sum of any two linear polynomial is what
Esther Reply
divide simplify each answer 3/2÷5/4
Momo Reply
divide simplify each answer 25/3÷5/12
Momo
how can are find the domain and range of a relations
austin Reply
the range is twice of the natural number which is the domain
Morolake
A cell phone company offers two plans for minutes. Plan A: $15 per month and $2 for every 300 texts. Plan B: $25 per month and $0.50 for every 100 texts. How many texts would you need to send per month for plan B to save you money?
Diddy Reply
6000
Robert
more than 6000
Robert
For Plan A to reach $27/month to surpass Plan B's $26.50 monthly payment, you'll need 3,000 texts which will cost an additional $10.00. So, for the amount of texts you need to send would need to range between 1-100 texts for the 100th increment, times that by 3 for the additional amount of texts...
Gilbert
...for one text payment for 300 for Plan A. So, that means Plan A; in my opinion is for people with text messaging abilities that their fingers burn the monitor for the cell phone. While Plan B would be for loners that doesn't need their fingers to due the talking; but those texts mean more then...
Gilbert
Practice Key Terms 4

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Source:  OpenStax, Precalculus. OpenStax CNX. Jan 19, 2016 Download for free at https://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11667/1.6
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