Conical coordinates

Conical coordinates
Coordinate surfaces of the conical coordinates. The constants b and c were chosen as 1 and 2, respectively. The red sphere represents r=2, the blue elliptic cone aligned with the vertical z-axis represents μ=cosh(1) and the yellow elliptic cone aligned with the (green) x-axis corresponds to ν2 = 2/3. The three surfaces intersect at the point P (shown as a black sphere) with Cartesian coordinates roughly (1.26, -0.78, 1.34). The elliptic cones intersect the sphere in taco-shaped curves.

Conical coordinates are a three-dimensional orthogonal coordinate system consisting of concentric spheres (described by their radius r) and by two families of perpendicular cones, aligned along the z- and x-axes, respectively.


Basic definitions

The conical coordinates (r,μ,ν) are defined by

x = \frac{r\mu\nu}{bc}

y = \frac{r}{b} \sqrt{\frac{\left( \mu^{2} - b^{2} \right) \left( \nu^{2} - b^{2} \right)}{\left( b^{2} - c^{2} \right)} }

z = \frac{r}{c} \sqrt{\frac{\left( \mu^{2} - c^{2} \right) \left( \nu^{2} - c^{2} \right)}{\left( c^{2} - b^{2} \right)} }

with the following limitations on the coordinates

ν2 < c2 < μ2 < b2

Surfaces of constant r are spheres of that radius centered on the origin

x2 + y2 + z2 = r2

whereas surfaces of constant μ and ν are mutually perpendicular cones

\frac{x^{2}}{\mu^{2}} + \frac{y^{2}}{\mu^{2} - b^{2}} + \frac{z^{2}}{\mu^{2} - c^{2}} = 0

\frac{x^{2}}{\nu^{2}} + \frac{y^{2}}{\nu^{2} - b^{2}} + \frac{z^{2}}{\nu^{2} - c^{2}} = 0

In this coordinate system, both Laplace's equation and the Helmholtz equation are separable.

Scale factors

The scale factor for the radius r is one (hr = 1), as in spherical coordinates. The scale factors for the two conical coordinates are

h_{\mu} = r \sqrt{\frac{\mu^{2} - \nu^{2}}{\left( b^{2} - \mu^{2} \right) \left( \mu^{2} - c^{2} \right)}}

h_{\nu} = r \sqrt{\frac{\mu^{2} - \nu^{2}}{\left( b^{2} - \nu^{2} \right) \left( c^{2} - \nu^{2} \right)}}



  • Morse PM, Feshbach H (1953). Methods of Theoretical Physics, Part I. New York: McGraw-Hill. p. 659. ISBN [[Special:BookSources/0-07-043316-X, LCCN 52-11515|0-07-043316-X, LCCN 52-11515]]. 
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