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Stereographic projection

Particular mapping that projects a sphere onto a plane / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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In mathematics, a stereographic projection is a perspective projection of the sphere, through a specific point on the sphere (the pole or center of projection), onto a plane (the projection plane) perpendicular to the diameter through the point. It is a smooth, bijective function from the entire sphere except the center of projection to the entire plane. It maps circles on the sphere to circles or lines on the plane, and is conformal, meaning that it preserves angles at which curves meet and thus locally approximately preserves shapes. It is neither isometric (distance preserving) nor equiareal (area preserving).[1]

3D illustration of a stereographic projection from the north pole onto a plane below the sphere

The stereographic projection gives a way to represent a sphere by a plane. The metric induced by the inverse stereographic projection from the plane to the sphere defines a geodesic distance between points in the plane equal to the spherical distance between the spherical points they represent. A two-dimensional coordinate system on the stereographic plane is an alternative setting for spherical analytic geometry instead of spherical polar coordinates or three-dimensional cartesian coordinates. This is the spherical analog of the Poincaré disk model of the hyperbolic plane.

Intuitively, the stereographic projection is a way of picturing the sphere as the plane, with some inevitable compromises. Because the sphere and the plane appear in many areas of mathematics and its applications, so does the stereographic projection; it finds use in diverse fields including complex analysis, cartography, geology, and photography. Sometimes stereographic computations are done graphically using a special kind of graph paper called a stereographic net, shortened to stereonet, or Wulff net.