What is an Ellipse

Learn about ellipses, the curved shape defined by two fixed points, known as foci. Explore properties, equations, applications, and real-world examples of ellipses.


An ellipse is a curve that is defined as the set of all points in a plane, the sum of whose distances from two fixed points (foci) is constant. In simpler terms, an ellipse is a stretched or squished circle.

Properties of Ellipses

  • Equidistant Foci – The sum of the distances of any point on the ellipse from the two foci is constant.
  • Major and Minor Axes – The major axis is the longest diameter of the ellipse, while the minor axis is the shortest diameter.

Equation of an Ellipse

The standard form of the equation of an ellipse with its center at the origin is x^2/a^2 + y^2/b^2 = 1, where a and b are the lengths of the major and minor axes.

Applications of Ellipses

Ellipses have numerous applications in various fields such as astronomy, engineering, and architecture. For example, the orbits of planets around the sun are elliptical in shape.

Real-World Examples

One famous example of an ellipse is the shape of the Earth’s orbit around the sun. Another example is the shape of many satellite dishes, which are often designed using elliptical shapes.

Case Study: Elliptical Galaxies

Elliptical galaxies are named so because of their elliptical shape. They are among the largest known galaxies, containing billions of stars. The shape of these galaxies is believed to be a result of interactions with other galaxies or gravitational forces.


Ellipses are fascinating mathematical shapes that have practical applications in the real world. Understanding the properties and equations of ellipses can provide valuable insights in various fields of study.

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