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Equation Of A Line In Three Dimensions

Equation of a line is defined as y= mx+c, where c is the y-intercept and m is the slope. Vectors can be defined as a quantity possessing both direction and magnitude. Position vectors simply denote the position or location of a point in the three-dimensional Cartesian system with respect to a reference origin. Further, we shall study in detail about vectors and Cartesian equation of a line in three dimensions. It is known that we can uniquely determine a line if:

  • It passes through a particular point in a specific direction, or
  • It passes through two unique points

Let us study each case separately and try to determine the equation of a line in both the given cases.

Equation of a Line passing through a point and parallel to a vector

Let us consider that the position vector of the given point be  

\(\begin{array}{l}\vec{a} \end{array} \)
 with respect to the origin. The line passing through point A is given by l and it is parallel to the vector
\(\begin{array}{l}\vec{k} \end{array} \)
as shown below. Let us choose any random point R on the line l and its position vector with respect to origin of the rectangular co-ordinate system is given by
\(\begin{array}{l}\vec{r} \end{array} \)
.

Equation of Line

Since the line segment,

\(\begin{array}{l}\overline{AR} \end{array} \)
 is parallel to vector 
\(\begin{array}{l}\vec{k} \end{array} \)
, therefore for any real number α,

\(\begin{array}{l}\overline{AR} \end{array} \)
= α 
\(\begin{array}{l}\vec{k} \end{array} \)

Also, 

\(\begin{array}{l}\overline{AR} \end{array} \)
=
\(\begin{array}{l}\overline{OR} \end{array} \)
– 
\(\begin{array}{l}\overline{OA} \end{array} \)

Therefore, α

\(\begin{array}{l}\vec{r} \end{array} \)
=
\(\begin{array}{l}\vec{r} \end{array} \)
\(\begin{array}{l}\vec{a} \end{array} \)

From the above equation it can be seen that for different values of α, the above equations give the position of any arbitrary point R lying on the line passing through point A and parallel to vector k. Therefore, the vector equation of a line passing through a given point and parallel to a given vector is given by:

\(\begin{array}{l}\vec{r} \end{array} \)
=
\(\begin{array}{l}\vec{a} \end{array} \)
+ α
\(\begin{array}{l}\vec{k} \end{array} \)

If the three-dimensional co-ordinates of the point ‘A’ are given as (x1, y1, z1) and the direction cosines of this point is given as a, b, c then considering the rectangular co-ordinates of point R as (x, y, z):

3d vector

Substituting these values in the vector equation of a line passing through a given point and parallel to a given vector and equating the coefficients of unit vectors i, j and k, we have,

<3d 2

Eliminating α we have:

3d 3

This gives us the Cartesian equation of line.

Equation of a Line passing through two given points

Let us consider that the position vector of the two given points A and B be

\(\begin{array}{l}\vec{a} \end{array} \)
and
\(\begin{array}{l}\vec{b} \end{array} \)
 with respect to the origin. Let us choose any random point R on the line and its position vector with respect to origin of the rectangular co-ordinate system is given by
\(\begin{array}{l}\vec{r} \end{array} \)
.

Equation of a Line

Point R lies on the line AB if and only if the vectors  

\(\begin{array}{l}\overline{AR} \end{array} \)
and
\(\begin{array}{l}\overline{AB} \end{array} \)
 are collinear. Also,

\(\begin{array}{l}\overline{AR} \end{array} \)
\(\begin{array}{l}\vec{r} \end{array} \)
\(\begin{array}{l}\vec{a}\end{array} \)

\(\begin{array}{l}\overline{AB} \end{array} \)
\(\begin{array}{l}\vec{b} \end{array} \)
\(\begin{array}{l}\vec{a}\end{array} \)

Thus R lies on AB only if;

\(\begin{array}{l}\vec{r} – \vec{a} = \alpha (\vec{b} – \vec{a})\end{array} \)

Here α is any real number.
From the above equation it can be seen that for different values of α, the above equation gives the position of any arbitrary point R lying on the line passing through point A and B. Therefore, the vector equation of a line passing through two given points is given by:

\(\begin{array}{l}\vec{r} = \vec{a} + \alpha (\vec{b} – \vec{a})\end{array} \)

If the three-dimensional coordinates of the points A and B are given as (x1, y1, z1) and (x2, y2, z2) then considering the rectangular co-ordinates of point R as (x, y, z)

Equation of Line

Substituting these values in the vector equation of a line passing through two given points and equating the coefficients of unit vectors i, j and k, we have

Equation of Line

Eliminating α we have:

Equation of Line

This gives us the Cartesian equation of a line.

To learn more about the equation of a line in three dimensions download BYJU’S- The Learning App.

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