# Stereographic projections

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1 Stereographic projections 1. Introduction The stereographic projection is a projection of points from the surface of a sphere on to its equatorial plane. The projection is defined as shown in Fig. 1. If any point P on the surface of the sphere is joined to the south pole S and the line PS cuts the equatorial plane at p, then p is the stereographic projection of P. The importance of the stereographic projection in crystallography derives from the fact that a set of points on the surface of the sphere provides a complete representation of a set of directions in three-dimensional space, the directions being the set of lines from the center of the sphere to the set of points. The stereographic projection of these points is then, for many purposes, the best way of representing on a plane piece of paper the inter-relationship of a set of directions. A common application is that of representing the angles between the faces of a crystal, and the symmetry relations between them. Another common application is representing strike and dip of planar features (e.g., beds, veins, faults). Figure 1: The point p is the stereographic projection of the point P on the sphere. Figure 2: The spherical projection of a crystal. On a well-formed crystal all the faces that are related to one another by the symmetry of the crystal structure are developed to an equal extent, and the shape of the crystal therefore reveals its true symmetry. However, real crystals are very rarely well-formed in this way; accidents of crystal growth such as unequal access of the crystallizing liquid, or interference by adjacent crystals or other objects, may have impeded the growth of the crystal in certain directions in such a way as to mask the true symmetry. However these accidents do not affect the angles between the faces--only their relative sizes. This was first recognized by Nicholas Steno. If the crystal is imagined to lie within a sphere that is centered on some arbitrary point inside the crystal, then lines drawn normal to the faces can be constructed from this point and extended to intersect the sphere (Fig. 2). The point where the normal to a face cuts the sphere is called the pole of the face. These points of intersection with the sphere (poles) represent the faces of the crystal in terms of direction, entirely uninfluenced by their relative sizes. A plane drawn tangent to the sphere at the pole is parallel to the face of the crystal within the sphere. The symmetry of the arrangement of these points on the surface of the sphere reveals the true symmetry of the crystal, whether or not the crystal is well-formed. This symmetry can then also be recognized in the stereographic projection of these points (poles). Since the angle between the two faces of a crystal is conventionally defined as the angle between their normals, it is equivalent to the (angular) great circle distance between their poles. The stereonet will be very useful in helping to visualize and quantify these relations. Page 1 of 8

2 A point on the southern hemisphere projects to a point outside the equator, and as such a point approaches the S-pole its projection recedes to infinity. For many purposes it is convenient to represent the whole sphere within the equator, and this can be done if points in the southern hemisphere are projected to the N-pole instead of the S-pole. It is then usual to distinguish such points by marking those projected to the S-pole as x or and those projected to the N-pole as!. 2. The Properties of the Stereographic Projection There is, of course, a variety of different projections of the sphere on to a plane that could be used to represent the angular relations between the poles of the faces of a crystal. However, what makes the stereographic projection pre-eminently suitable for this purpose is the fact that it projects any circle on the sphere into a circle on the projection (although in some cases this circle becomes of infinite radius, i.e. a straight line). Circles are much easier to deal with than other geometric forms, such as ellipses. It is evident from Fig. 1 that if P were to lie on the equator of the sphere then p would coincide with it. In other words the equator coincides with its own projection. The circle on the stereographic projection which represents the equator of the sphere plays an important role and is called the primitive of the projection. Angular distances round the equator on the sphere obviously project to identical angular distances round the primitive. It is also clear from Fig. 1 that the north pole of the sphere projects to the center of the primitive. Figure 3 shows that a meridian (equivalent to a line of longitude on a globe) of the sphere projects to a diameter of the primitive (Fig. 3a: this is the case where the projection is a circle of infinite radius), and a circle of latitude on the northern hemisphere projects to a circle concentric with the primitive and inside it (Fig. 3b). If the circle of latitude were in the southern hemisphere it would project to a concentric circle outside the primitive. Figure 3a: A meridian on the sphere projects into a diameter of the primitive. Figure 3b: A circle of latitude projects into a circle concentric with the primitive. The equator and a meridian are special kinds of great circles on the sphere. Now consider a great circle that is randomly oriented in the sphere. Such a great circle in a general position is shown in Fig. 4. Note that exactly half of such a circle is above the equator and half is below it (go ahead and visualize it if you don t believe this). The half above it will project onto the equatorial plane within the sphere, but the half below the equator will project onto the equatorial plane outside the sphere. It should be clear that the stereographic projection of any great circle other than the equator will be a circle of radius greater than that of the primitive. Further, that projection intersects the equator in two points at opposite ends of a diameter of the primitive. As the tilt on any great circle increases (i.e., as the great circle approaches a meridian), the diameter of the projection becomes ever larger. When the meridian is reached, the projection is essentially a circle of infinite diameter, and the small portion of the circle that is within the sphere becomes a straight line (i.e., a diameter in the equatorial plane). For some purposes it is necessary to consider the whole circle, but for most purposes it is more convenient to project the half-circle in the southern hemisphere to the north pole so as to confine the Page 2 of 8

3 Figure 4: A great circle in a general position in the sphere projects into a circle that intersects the primitive at opposite ends of a diameter; (a) perspective view; (b) the projection itself. Figure 5: The broken line shows the portion of the projection of the great circle of Fig. 4 that lies outside the primitive (equator), reprojected from the N-pole. projection within the primitive. When this is done the complete representation of the great circle consists of two arcs of larger radius than the equator symmetrically related across a diameter of the primitive as shown in Fig. 5. The equator and circles of latitude are of course centered at the north pole, and their projections are also centered at the projection of the north pole, that is, at the center of the primitive. However this is the only case in which the projection of the center of a circle coincides with the center of the projection of the circle. This is evident for great circles from Fig. 4; that it is also true for small circles will be evident from Section 3(iv) below. 3. Geometrical Construction of Stereographic Projections There are four important constructions that can be done very easily on the stereographic projection with the aid of a ruler, compasses and protractor. (i) To plot the projection of a point P at a given angle 2 from the N-pole (note that we do not know the rotational angular relation between P and the N-pole). Consider a meridional section of the sphere through the point P as in Fig. 6 (left). The point P can be inserted (using the protractor) and joined to S. It cuts the equatorial section at p. Because we do not know the rotational angular relation, a circle of radius Op can then be transferred to the projection (Fig. 6 right) and this circle describes the projections of all points at 2 from the N-pole. Figure 6: Construction of the stereographic projection of a point that lies at an angle 2 from the N-pole: (left) construction on vertical section of the sphere; (right) the projection. Figure 7: Construction of the stereographic projection p of the opposite of a pole whose projection is p: (left) construction on vertical section of the sphere; (right) the projection. Page 3 of 8

4 (ii) To plot the projection of the opposite of a given point: On the meridional section of the sphere through the point P (Fig. 7 left) it is easy to join P to the center and extend it to the opposite point Q (its antipodes). The projection of Q to the S-pole then gives its projection q at a distance Oq from the center. If p has already been plotted on the stereograph (Fig. 7 right) then it can be joined to the center O and this line continued a distance Oq transferred from Fig. 7 (left). One can easily see that as the position of P approaches the N-pole (and as Q approaches the S-pole), the projection will become very unwieldy. This is why we generally plot points in the upper half of the hemisphere as projected to the S-pole and points in the lower half of the hemisphere as projected to the N-pole. For the following construction (iii) we shall require the opposite of P projected to the S-pole in this way. However, if, for other purposes, we require to project the opposite of P to the N-pole then the procedure is very simple; on this convention q is simply obtained by joining p to the center of the stereogram and continuing this line for an equal distance beyond the center to make Oq =Op as in Fig. 8. Figure 8: Meridional view (left) and polar view (right) of the projection of P to the S-pole to point p and the point Q to the N-pole to point q. Figure 9: Construction of the projection of a great circle through two points (P, R) whose projections are p, r. O is the center of the stereogram. (iii) To draw the projection of a great circle through any two points. This will be useful in determining the angular relationship between crystal faces (see below). Let the projections of the two points P and R be p and r (Fig. 9). Since every great circle through any point passes through the opposite (antipode) of that point, the great circle through P and R must pass through Q, the opposite of P. Thus the required projection is the circle through pqr, and q is found by means of construction (ii). The center of this circle is at the intersection of the perpendicular bisectors of pr and pq, and the circle can therefore be drawn. (iv) To draw the projection of a small circle of radius 2 from a given point. Such a circle is the locus of all points at an angular distance from the given point P, and is therefore very useful when we wish to plot a point at some specified angle from another point. Consider the meridional section of the sphere through P (Fig. 10 left). Mark off two points, A and B at angular distances 2 at each side of P. Join A, B and P to S-pole to find their projections a, b and p. Transfer to the stereogram distances ap and bp along the diameter through p. Then a and b obviously lie on the required circle and its center must be the mid-point of ab (Note that this center is displaced outwards from p itself). The circle can therefore be drawn directly (Fig. 10 right). Figure 10: Construction of the projection of a small circle of radius θ around a point P. Left, meridional view; right, polar view. Note that the center of the circle (c) does not coincide with point p. Page 4 of 8

5 It is commonly required to find a point at a given angle from p and at some other given angle from q. Such a point is at the intersection of the two corresponding small circles. There are of course two such points of intersection, but there will usually be some qualitative reason to show which of these two points is the one required. All the four procedures described above have involved a subsidiary drawing of a meridional section of the sphere; the actual construction has been performed on this section, and appropriate measurements have been transferred from it to the stereogram itself. This use of a subsidiary drawing is helpful in clarifying the principles involved, but it is not necessary in practice. If the meridional section is imagined to be rotated by 90 about its equatorial diameter then it coincides with the plane of the stereogram, so that the construction lines can be drawn on the stereogram itself. If they are erased afterwards then the same result is obtained directly without having to transfer a measurement. This way of carrying out construction (ii) is shown by broken lines in Fig. 8, and the method is equally applicable to all the constructions. 4. The Use of Stereographic Nets Stereographic projections of the highest accuracy are obtained by the constructions described in the previous section, and they have been described first because they lead to an understanding of the principles involved. However, it is often more convenient to prepare stereograms with the help of stereographic nets and, although the accuracy obtained is usually lower, it is sufficient for most purposes. A stereographic net is simply a stereographic projection of the lines of latitude and longitude of a sphere on to a central plane. The most obvious form of stereographic net is shown in Fig. 11. The N-pole projects to the center as discussed in Section 1, the lines of latitude project to a set of concentric circles, and the lines of longitude to a set of diameters of the primitive. Such a net, if graduated sufficiently finely, could be used directly to obtain the same results as constructions (i) and (iv) of Section 3. However, other nets are possible and, as we will see, more generally useful. If we imagine a terrestrial globe tilted over as shown in Fig. 12a, Figure 11: Stereographic projection of lines of latitude (90 N to 30 S) and longitude. and we project all points on it, not to the geographical S-pole but to the lowest point of the sphere, then the projection of the lines of latitude and longitude would be as shown in Fig. 12b. We shall revert to this idea in Section 5, but the most generally useful result is if we tilt the globe right over so that its N-S axis is horizontal. The projection is then as shown in Fig. 12c. It is equivalent to what we would have obtained by projecting to its S-pole a globe that was inscribed with lines of latitude and longitude referred to as east pole and west pole. This is the Wulff net, and is so generally useful that it is commonly referred to as the stereographic net. A commercially available Wulff net graduated in 2 intervals is shown on the next page. On this figure all the (nearly) vertical lines represent great circles, and all the (nearly) horizontal lines represent small circles round a point on the primitive. Figure 12: (a) Tilted sphere with lines of latitude and longitude; (b) Stereographic projection of a in the plane of the dashed line in a; (c) Stereographic projection of the lines of latitude and longitude to the lowest point of a sphere that has been tilted over so that its axis is horizontal. This is the Wulff net (equiangular stereonet). Page 5 of 8

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7 In order to construct stereograms with the help of the Wulff net it is most convenient to work on tracing paper over the net. A thumbtack placed under the net at the center allows for the rotation of the net, while still keeping the tracing paper properly located on the net. To plot a point at a given angle from the N-pole (equivalent to construction (i)) one simply uses the scale along either of the graduated diameters of the net. When dealing with poles to crystal faces (see Fig. 1), all poles to vertical faces will plot on the equator. Poles that are not on vertical will plot within the stereonet. By convention, the right side of the stereonet (that is, what would look like the east direction on a map) is designated N = 0. All N angles will be measured relative to this point, with positive N angles measured in a clockwise direction and negative N angles measured in a counterclockwise direction. By convention, the D angle is measured as the tilt of the pole from the horizontal, with negative D angles being below the horizontal and positive D angles being above the horizontal. To actually plot these angles requires one to first plot the N angle for the pole to the face, then rotate the stereonet so that the N point is along either the N-S or E-W diameter of the stereonet. The D angle can then be measured off using the gradations on the net. To draw a great circle through any two points (equivalent to construction (iii)) rotate the stereogram over the net until both points lie on one of the projected great circles (or an interpolated circle between two of them) and then trace the required arc on to the stereogram. Because of the simplicity of this procedure one does not need construction (ii). If the two points have been projected to opposite poles (i.e. one is a x and the other a ) then rotate the stereogram until they lie on projected great circles at equal distances on opposite sides of the vertical diameter of the net. To draw a small circle of given radius 2 about a point p (equivalent to construction (iv)) rotate the stereogram over the net so that the p point lies on the vertical (N-S) diameter. If there are two points at the appropriate scale distances on opposite sides of p and within the primitive, then mark these two points and draw a circle through them centered at their midpoint (Fig. 13 left: remember that the center of the circle is not at point p). If p is closer to the primitive than the required angular radius then only one of the required points (a) can be found on the net. Position the point p on the horizontal diameter of the net and mark two points d and d (Fig. 13 right) above and below p at distances along the great circle through p (simply count off the degrees above and below point p along the great circle). Then the required small circle can be drawn through a, d and d as shown in Figure 9. Once the circle has been drawn it is possible to reproject the part that lies outside the primitive. Count divisions along the diameter from p to the primitive and then continue counting back inwards until the value of 2 is reached: this leads to a point b (Fig. 13 right) and the required arc is that which goes through b and the two intersections e and e of the small circle with the primitive. If the point p lies on the primitive, then the stereogram must be rotated so that p lies at one end or the other of the vertical diameter of the Wulff net. A projected small circle of any desired angular radius can then be traced directly from the Wulff net. Figure 13: Construction of the stereographic projection of a small circle round a point p, using the Wulff net: (a) when the projected circle is wholly within the primitive: (b) when it extends outside the primitive. Page 7 of 8

8 5. Representation of Symmetry on the Stereographic Projection A symmetry plane of a crystal necessarily cuts the spherical projection of the crystal along a great circle. It is therefore represented on the stereogram by a line which will be either the primitive, a diameter of the primitive, or one of the (nearly) vertical arcs of the Wulff net (after rotation into an appropriate orientation). It is represented by a thick solid line. The operation of reflection of a point p in such a reflection plane to p can be carried out on the Wulff net. Rotate the stereogram so that the line representing the mirror plane coincides with a great circle on the net: then count divisions from p along a small circle until the representation of the mirror is reached. The position of p is then a further equal number of divisions along the small circle beyond the mirror. If the primitive is reached before p then continue counting divisions inwards until the total is correct, but mark the position instead of!. An axis of crystallographic symmetry (2-, 3-, 4- or 6-fold) necessarily intersects the sphere in a point which can be represented by its projection on the stereogram; and marked with the appropriate symbol (Ë,,, and [hex] respectively). The same is also true for the direction of the component rotation axis of an axis of rotation-inversion b, e or 3, or (marked as Î,~ and [hex] respectively). The operation of an n-fold symmetry axis on a point p is to rotate p through graduations equivalent to 360 /n along a small circle round the pole of the axis. If the symmetry axis is at the center of the stereogram then this is a straight-forward rotation of 360 /n. If the symmetry axis lies on the primitive, then place the stereogram so that this point lies at the bottom (or top) of the Wulff net. Increments of 360 /n may then be counted in terms of the graduations along the small circle through p. When the primitive is reached counting continues as the path is retraced but the next point is plotted as instead of! (or vice-versa). If the symmetry axis is in a more general position it would seem that one would require a stereographic net of the kind shown in Fig. 12 with the intersection of the meridians at the position of the symmetry axis. However, it is perfectly possible to use the Wulff net in the following way, repositioning the stereogram on the net as necessary: (i) Measure the angular distance from the axis of symmetry (s) of the point (p) that is to be repeated by the symmetry. (ii) Construct the small circle (l) of this radius about s in the manner shown in Figure 13. (iii) Construct the circle (e) of radius 90 about s. To construct this place s on the E-W diameter of the net, find the point 90 away along that diameter and the two ends of the perpendicular diameter, and draw a circle through these three points by tracing along one of the great circle curves. Angular distances can be measured along this curve. (iv) Mark the intersection of e with the great circle through s and p. Count increments of 360 /n from this point along e. From each of these incremental points find the great circle that goes through s; the points in which these great circles cut l are the points in which p is repeated by the axis of symmetry. If the poles of the faces of a crystal of unknown symmetry are plotted in an arbitrary orientation on a stereogram it will often be possible to recognize the orientation of the symmetry elements. The stereogram can then be re-plotted in one of the standard orientations, shown in text-books of morphological crystallography to demonstrate the symmetry of the seven crystal systems and the thirty-two crystal classes. This material is from the International Union of Crystallography website: from the course of E. J. W. Whittaker The Stereographic Projection with the text modified and most diagrams redrawn. Page 8 of 8

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