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sphere, in geometry, the three-dimensional analogue of a circle. The term is applied to the spherical surface, every point of which is the same distance (the radius) from a certain fixed point (the center), and also to the volume enclosed by such a surface. The curve formed by a plane cutting a sphere is a circle. If the plane goes through the center of the sphere, the circle is called a great circle of the sphere. It is the largest circle that can be drawn upon the sphere, and all great circles of the same or equal spheres are of equal size. The shortest distance between two points on a spherical surface, measured on the surface, is the distance along the great circle through those points. A plane cutting a sphere in a great circle divides the sphere into two equal segments called hemispheres. The diameter of a sphere is the diameter of one of its great circles. The formula for the area of the surface of a sphere is S = 4π r 2, and for the volume it is V = 4/3 π r 3, where r is the radius of the sphere. Spherical geometry and spherical trigonometry are methods of determining magnitudes and figures on a spherical surface.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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