Math CentralQuandaries & Queries


Question from Fabiola, a student:

A telescope is mounted on a tripod 5 ft above the ground and 20 ft from a flagpole. The telescope must be rotated 48° from horizontal to see the top of the flagpole. How tall is the flagpole?

Hi again, Fabiola.

Here is a sketch of the question:




Thus, the height of the flag pole is 5 ft, plus the length of the triangle opposite the side you know:

Can you think of a trigonometry function that can tell you the length of the side opposite a known angle of a right triangle when you know the length of the adjacent side?

Hope this helps,
Stephen La Rocque.

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