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Let $M$ be the space of all $m\times n$ matrices. And $C=\{X\in M|rank(X)\leq k\}$ where $k\leq \min\{m,n\}$. How to proof that C is a closed subset of M?

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

We can identify $M$ with $\mathbb{R}^{mn}$, by having the matrix $X=\pmatrix{a_{11} & \cdots & a_{1n}\\ \vdots & \ddots & \vdots \\ a_{m1} & \cdots & a_{mn}}$ correspond to the ordered tuple $(a_{11},a_{12},\ldots,a_{mn})$.

Let $r\leq\min\{m,n\}$, and let $M_r$ be the space of all $r\times r$ matrices. The map that sends an $m\times n$ matrix $X\in M$ to the $r\times r$ matrix formed from $X$ by removing all but a certain choice of $r$ rows (the $i_1,\ldots,i_r$'th rows, say) and a certain choice of $r$ columns (the $j_1,\ldots,j_r$'th colums, say), $$X=\pmatrix{a_{11} & \cdots & a_{1n}\\ \vdots & \ddots & \vdots \\ a_{m1} & \cdots & a_{mn}}\mapsto \pmatrix{a_{i_1j_1} & \cdots & a_{j_1j_r}\\ \vdots & \ddots & \vdots \\ a_{i_rj_1} & \cdots & a_{i_rj_r}}$$ corresponds to the map from $\mathbb{R}^{mn}$ to $\mathbb{R}^{r^2}$ that sends $$(a_{11},a_{12},\ldots,a_{mn})\mapsto (a_{i_1j_1},a_{i_1j_2},\ldots,a_{i_rj_r}),$$ which is continuous, for any choice of the $i$'s and $j$'s.

Furthermore, the determinant map from $M_r$ to $\mathbb{R}$ that sends $Y\in M_r$ to $\det(Y)$ is continuous, because it is a polynomial in the entries of $Y$, i.e. it corresponds to a map from $\mathbb{R}^{r^2}$ to $\mathbb{R}$ that is a polynomial in $r^2$ variables.

Suppose $k<\min\{m,n\}$. Then map $M$ to $\mathbb{R}^d$, where $d={\binom{m}{k+1}\cdot\binom{n}{k+1}}$, by sending a matrix to the ordered tuple of its $(k+1)\times(k+1)$ minors. For example, if $m=n=3$ and $k=1$, then we send $$\pmatrix{1 & 2 & 3\\ 4 & 5 & 6\\ 7 & 8 & 9}\mapsto\left( |\begin{smallmatrix} 1 & 2\\ 4 & 5\end{smallmatrix}|, |\begin{smallmatrix} 1 & 3\\ 4 & 6\end{smallmatrix}|, |\begin{smallmatrix} 2 & 3\\ 5 & 6\end{smallmatrix}|, |\begin{smallmatrix} 1 & 2\\ 7 & 8\end{smallmatrix}|, |\begin{smallmatrix} 1 & 3\\ 7 & 9\end{smallmatrix}|, |\begin{smallmatrix} 2 & 3\\ 8 & 9\end{smallmatrix}|, |\begin{smallmatrix} 4 & 5\\ 7 & 8\end{smallmatrix}|, |\begin{smallmatrix} 4 & 6\\ 7 & 9\end{smallmatrix}|, |\begin{smallmatrix} 5 & 6\\ 8 & 9\end{smallmatrix}| \right).$$

Because all $d$ of the projection maps from $M$ to $M_r$ are continuous, and because the determinant map from $M_r$ to $\mathbb{R}$ is continuous, this map is continuous.

A matrix is of rank $\leq k$, i.e. $< k+1$, if and only if all of its $(k+1)\times(k+1)$ minors are zero. Thus, $C$ is the preimage of $0\in\mathbb{R}^d$ under a continuous map, and $\{0\}$ is a closed set in $\mathbb{R}^d$ because $\mathbb{R}^d$ is Hausdorff, so therefore $C$ is a closed set in $M$.

If $k=\min\{m,n\}$, then $C=M$, and is a closed set.

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