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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

how can are find the domain and range of a relations
austin Reply
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
can I see the picture
Zairen Reply
How would you find if a radical function is one to one?
Peighton Reply
how to understand calculus?
Jenica Reply
with doing calculus
SLIMANE
Thanks po.
Jenica
Hey I am new to precalculus, and wanted clarification please on what sine is as I am floored by the terms in this app? I don't mean to sound stupid but I have only completed up to college algebra.
rachel Reply
I don't know if you are looking for a deeper answer or not, but the sine of an angle in a right triangle is the length of the opposite side to the angle in question divided by the length of the hypotenuse of said triangle.
Marco
can you give me sir tips to quickly understand precalculus. Im new too in that topic. Thanks
Jenica
if you remember sine, cosine, and tangent from geometry, all the relationships are the same but they use x y and r instead (x is adjacent, y is opposite, and r is hypotenuse).
Natalie
it is better to use unit circle than triangle .triangle is only used for acute angles but you can begin with. Download any application named"unit circle" you find in it all you need. unit circle is a circle centred at origine (0;0) with radius r= 1.
SLIMANE
What is domain
johnphilip
the standard equation of the ellipse that has vertices (0,-4)&(0,4) and foci (0, -15)&(0,15) it's standard equation is x^2 + y^2/16 =1 tell my why is it only x^2? why is there no a^2?
Reena Reply
what is foci?
Reena Reply
This term is plural for a focus, it is used for conic sections. For more detail or other math questions. I recommend researching on "Khan academy" or watching "The Organic Chemistry Tutor" YouTube channel.
Chris
how to determine the vertex,focus,directrix and axis of symmetry of the parabola by equations
Bryssen Reply
i want to sure my answer of the exercise
meena Reply
what is the diameter of(x-2)²+(y-3)²=25
Den Reply
how to solve the Identity ?
Barcenas Reply
what type of identity
Jeffrey
Confunction Identity
Barcenas
how to solve the sums
meena
hello guys
meena
For each year t, the population of a forest of trees is represented by the function A(t) = 117(1.029)t. In a neighboring forest, the population of the same type of tree is represented by the function B(t) = 86(1.025)t.
Shakeena Reply
by how many trees did forest "A" have a greater number?
Shakeena
32.243
Kenard
how solve standard form of polar
Rhudy Reply
what is a complex number used for?
Drew Reply
It's just like any other number. The important thing to know is that they exist and can be used in computations like any number.
Steve
I would like to add that they are used in AC signal analysis for one thing
Scott
Good call Scott. Also radar signals I believe.
Steve
They are used in any profession where the phase of a waveform has to be accounted for in the calculations. Imagine two electrical signals in a wire that are out of phase by 90°. At some times they will interfere constructively, others destructively. Complex numbers simplify those equations
Tim
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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