# 1979 USAMO Problems/Problem 2

## Problem $N$ is the north pole. $A$ and $B$ are points on a great circle through $N$ equidistant from $N$. $C$ is a point on the equator. Show that the great circle through $C$ and $N$ bisects the angle $ACB$ in the spherical triangle $ABC$ (a spherical triangle has great circle arcs as sides).

## Hint

Draw a large diagram. A nice, large, and precise diagram. Note that drawing a sphere entails drawing a circle and then a dashed circle (preferably of a different color) perpendicular (in the plane) to the original circle.

## Solution

Since $N$ is the north pole, we define the Earth with a sphere of radius one in space with $N=(0,0,1)$ and sphere center $O=(0,0,0)$ We then pick point $N$ on the sphere and define the $xz-plane$ as the plane that contains great circle points $A$ , $B$, and $N$ with the $x-axis$ perpendicular to the $z-axis$ and in the direction of $A$.

Using this coordinate system and $x$, $y$, and $z$ axes $A=(cos(\phi),0,sin(\phi))$ where $\phi$ is the angle from the $xy-plane$ to $A$ or latitude on this sphere with $\frac{-\pi}{2} < \phi < \frac{\pi}{2}$

Since $A$ and $B$ are points on a great circle through $N$ equidistant from $N$, then $B=(-cos(\phi),0,sin(\phi))$

Since $C$ is a point on the equator, then $C=(cos(\theta),sin(\theta),0)$ where $\theta$ is the angle on the $xy-plane$ from the origin to $C$ or longitude on this sphere with $-\pi < \phi \le \pi$

We note that vectors from the origin to points $N$, $A$, $B$, and $C$ are all unit vectors because all those points are on the unit sphere.

So, we're going to define points $N$, $A$, $B$, and $C$ as unit vectors with their coordinates.

We also define the following vectors as follows:

Vector $\overrightarrow{V_{CN}}$ is the unit vector in the direction of arc $CN$ and tangent to the great circle of $CN$ at $C$

Vector $\overrightarrow{V_{CA}}$ is the unit vector in the direction of arc $CA$ and tangent to the great circle of $CA$ at $C$

Vector $\overrightarrow{V_{CB}}$ is the unit vector in the direction of arc $CB$ and tangent to the great circle of $CB$ at $C$

To calculate each of these vectors we shall use the cross product as follows: $\overrightarrow{V_{CN}}=(\overrightarrow{C}\times\overrightarrow{N})\times\overrightarrow{C}$ $\overrightarrow{V_{CN}}=(\left\langle cos(\theta),sin(\theta),0 \right\rangle\times\left\langle 0,0,1 \right\rangle)\times \left\langle cos(\theta),sin(\theta),0 \right\rangle$ $\overrightarrow{V_{CN}}=\left\langle sin(\theta),-cos(\theta),0 \right\rangle\times \left\langle cos(\theta),sin(\theta),0 \right\rangle$ $\overrightarrow{V_{CN}}=\left\langle 0,0,sin^{2}(\theta)+cos^{2}(\theta) \right\rangle$ $\overrightarrow{V_{CN}}=\left\langle 0,0,1 \right\rangle$

Vector $\overrightarrow{V_{CA}}$: $\overrightarrow{V_{CA}}=(\overrightarrow{C}\times\overrightarrow{A})\times\overrightarrow{C}$ $\overrightarrow{V_{CA}}=(\left\langle cos(\theta),sin(\theta),0 \right\rangle\times\left\langle cos(\phi),0,sin(\phi) \right\rangle)\times \left\langle cos(\theta),sin(\theta),0 \right\rangle$ $\overrightarrow{V_{CA}}=\left\langle sin(\theta)sin(\phi),-cos(\theta)sin(\phi),-sin(\theta)cos(\phi) \right\rangle\times \left\langle cos(\theta),sin(\theta),0 \right\rangle$

Since we're only interested in the $z$ component of the vector $\overrightarrow{V_{CA}}=\left\langle V_{CA_{x}},V_{CA_{y}},sin^{2}(\theta)sin(\phi)+cos^{2}(\theta)sin(\phi) \right\rangle$ $\overrightarrow{V_{CA}}=\left\langle V_{CA_{x}},V_{CA_{y}},sin(\phi) \right\rangle$

Vector $\overrightarrow{V_{CB}}$: $\overrightarrow{V_{CB}}=(\overrightarrow{C}\times\overrightarrow{b})\times\overrightarrow{C}$ $\overrightarrow{V_{CB}}=(\left\langle cos(\theta),sin(\theta),0 \right\rangle\times\left\langle -cos(\phi),0,sin(\phi) \right\rangle)\times \left\langle cos(\theta),sin(\theta),0 \right\rangle$ $\overrightarrow{V_{CB}}=\left\langle sin(\theta)sin(\phi),-cos(\theta)sin(\phi),sin(\theta)cos(\phi) \right\rangle\times \left\langle cos(\theta),sin(\theta),0 \right\rangle$

Since we're only interested in the $z$ component of the vector $\overrightarrow{V_{CB}}=\left\langle V_{CB_{x}},V_{CB_{y}},sin^{2}(\theta)sin(\phi)+cos^{2}(\theta)sin(\phi) \right\rangle$ $\overrightarrow{V_{CB}}=\left\langle V_{CB_{x}},V_{CB_{y}},sin(\phi) \right\rangle$

Since we're working with unit vectors, then we can use dot products on the vectors with their angles as follows: $cos(\angle ACN) = \overrightarrow{V_{CA}}\cdot \overrightarrow{V_{CN}}$ $cos(\angle ACN) = \left\langle V_{CA_{x}},V_{CA_{y}},sin(\phi) \right\rangle \cdot \left\langle 0,0,1 \right\rangle = 0*V_{CA_{x}}+0*V_{CA_{y}}+1*sin(\phi)=sin(\phi)$

Likewise, $cos(\angle BCN) = \overrightarrow{V_{CB}}\cdot \overrightarrow{V_{CN}}$ $cos(\angle BCN) = \left\langle V_{CB_{x}},V_{CB_{y}},sin(\phi) \right\rangle \cdot \left\langle 0,0,1 \right\rangle = 0*V_{CB_{x}}+0*V_{CB_{y}}+1*sin(\phi)=sin(\phi)$

Therefore, $cos(\angle ACN) = cos(\angle BCN)$ and thus $\angle ACN = \angle BCN$

Since those angles are equal, it proves that the great circle through $C$ and $N$ bisects the $\angle ACB$ in the spherical triangle $ABC$

~Tomas Diaz

The problems on this page are copyrighted by the Mathematical Association of America's American Mathematics Competitions. 