A unit circle is a circle whose radius is equal to 1. Furthermore, the circle has its center at the origin of a rectangular coordinate system.
Let P = (x , y) be a point on the circle. Then, make a right triangle by drawing a line perpendicular to x. The line is shown in green.
The horizontal leg of the triangle is x units away from the origin and the vertical leg of the triangle is y units away from the origin.
We can take a step further so we can derive an important trigonometric function. Let us name t the angle made with the radius in red and the x axis.
Take a close look at the triangle and you will see as we learned before that the adjacent side to angle t is x and the opposite side is y.
Therefore, sin(t) = y / 1 = y and cos(t) = x / 1 = xWe can replace x = cos(t) and sin(t) in x2 + y2 = 1
We can also call the six trigonometric functions above circular functions because of the fact that we are using a unit circle to express the functions values.
We just derived some of the most important trigonometric identities. We have just scratched the surface of what we can do with the unit circle. Next lesson will show that the unit circle can also be used to find sin (45 degrees).