Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Cartesian Coordinates
Name: Johann
Status: other
Age: 30s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 1999 

Would you know where I could get a formula to determine the angle of travel between two cartesian coordinates. For example: someone travelling on a ship knows the degrees-minutes-seconds of the start and end location. Based on a calculation, they set their compass to an angle between 0 and 360 degrees and that is the direction the ship is to travel. The formula should have some considerable degree of accuracy.

You can derive one using a textbook on plane geometry and algebra. But, if you are really talking about a ship, then you are talking not about plane geometry and Cartesian axes, because the surface of the Earth is not a plane but a sphere. Hence you need a textbook on spherical trigonometry and/or navigation.


Click here to return to the Physics Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory