How to Calculate an Angle From a Bearing

The same way the captain of a ship needs to navigate in the proper direction, the angles between various points in space can outline different methods of determining position and motion. With the geometry of the ocean before them, you can learn the ways scientists, engineers and other professionals use the angles between points in their navigation practices.

Bearing to Degrees

The bearing is an angle measured clockwise from north, and it finds uses across geography for mapping out the Earth. You can find this bearing angle in maps and compass measurements.

To find the bearing angle from a certain angle, measure the clockwise degrees between the direction or vector and the object from the north line when the object is centered at the origin just as though the angle were the hands of a clock. The similarity between bearing and clock position has lead to informal uses of the position of a clock's hands (for example, the angle between the hands that indicate it is 3:00) as bearing angle.

The cardinal directions, north, east, south, or west, can then be determined with bearing angles of 0° or 360°, 90°, 180° and 270°, respectively, for converting angle of bearing to degrees. To convert angle of bearing to degrees of a standard angle, subtract the bearing angle from 90°. If you end up with a negative answer, add 360°, and if your answer is greater than 360°, subtract 360° from it.

For a bearing angle of 180°, the standard angle would be 270°. The standard angle is typically measured by placing the angle at the origin and, from the line facing east, increasing counter-clockwise. You can just draw out the angles if you need a simpler way of tackling problems in a bearings maths lesson.

Types of Bearing

Bearing angles can be used for determining the angles of different shapes such as triangles or quadrilaterals. Protractors and compasses come in handy for measuring the bearing. With a protractor, you can accurately measure angles when drawing maps, curves, circles, or other shapes.

A bearings calculator might things easier if you find one, but understanding the underlying physics and mathematics will make things more clear.

Bearings have application in a myriad of fields from compass bearings, (the bearing a compass dictates) magnetic bearings (the bearing with respect to the north direction of the Earth's magnetic field), and true bearing (the bearing with respect to the Earth's north axis).

Because compasses and other instruments to measure the bearing angle are made of metal, they're affected by deviations in the Earth's magnetic field and metals that make up the Earth. For example, ferrous metals, those which have amounts of oxidized iron in the +2 electromagnetic state, cause magnetic fields that slightly change the direction that compasses point to make them not point directly at the Earth's north geographic axis.

The Earth's Magnetism

Instead, these measurements are off by a small amount. Because the true bearing does not measure the Earth's magnetic field exactly, scientists and researchers across disciplines compare the true bearing to the Earth's magnetic north pole to determine how it differs and study the magnetic anomalies that result from it.

Geographers, geologists, and other scientists studying the Earth use bearing between the geographic north pole to determine the magnetic field across the planet and accurately create maps of the Earth.

Researchers use these anomalies (variations in Earth's magnetic field) in studying the nature of geologic phenomena such as mid-ocean ridges, ocean crust and magma that flows through them, and even how they've changed throughout Earth's history.

This research field, known as paleomagnetism, involves determining the Earth's historical magnetic field record through the study of magnetized rocks. Studying how these geologic formations came to be gives clues about the history of the Earth.

References

About the Author

S. Hussain Ather is a Master's student in Science Communications the University of California, Santa Cruz. After studying physics and philosophy as an undergraduate at Indiana University-Bloomington, he worked as a scientist at the National Institutes of Health for two years. He primarily performs research in and write about neuroscience and philosophy, however, his interests span ethics, policy, and other areas relevant to science.

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