How do you solve a system of the following form: $$a = 2\sin(x) - \sin(y) + \sin(x+y)\tag1$$ $$b = 2\sin(y) - \sin(x) + \sin(x+y)\tag2$$ where $a,b$ are constants, and $x,y$ the variables I'd like to solve for. Subtracting $(1)-(2)$ gives an expression for $\sin(y)$. However, rewriting $$\sin(x+y)=\sin(x)\cos(y)+\sin(y)\cos(x)$$ requires an expression for $\cos(y)$. Using $\cos(y)=\sqrt{1-\sin^2(y)}$ results in a complicated equation, which I cannot solve.

Is there an easier way to solve this system?

  • $\begingroup$ What makes you think there is a nice solution to this problem? When I try, I get a sixth-degree polynomial. $\endgroup$
    – Blue
    Mar 2 '19 at 11:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Blue The problem is much harder than it seems! $\endgroup$
    – TheSimpliFire
    Mar 2 '19 at 11:25

You are on the right track. Subtracting $(2)$ from $(1)$ gives $\sin x=c+\sin y$ where $c=\frac{a-b}3$ and putting this into $(1)$ gives $$a=2c+\sin y+\sin x\cos y+\sin y\cos x$$ so $$\cos x=-1-\cos y+\frac{b+c-c\cos y}{\sin y}$$ Thus $$\small \sin^2x+\cos^2x\\=\\\small c^2+2c\sin y+\sin^2y+1+\cos^2y+\left(\frac{b+c-c\cos y}{\sin y}\right)^2+2\cos y-2\frac{b+c-c\cos y}{\sin y}-2\cos y\frac{b+c-c\cos y}{\sin y}$$ so $$\left(\frac{b+c-c\cos y}{\sin y}-1\right)^2-2\cos y\left(\frac{b+c-c\cos y}{\sin y}-1\right)+c^2+2c\sin y=0$$ giving $$\frac{b+c-c\cos y}{\sin y}-1=\frac{2\cos y\pm\sqrt{4\cos^2y-4(c^2+2c\sin y)}}2$$ and the half-angle identities give $$\frac b{\sin y}+c\tan\frac y2=2\cos^2\frac y2\pm\sqrt{1-(c+\sin y)^2}$$ I highly doubt there is an analytical solution to this, but once $y$ is found perhaps numerically, $x=\sin^{-1}(c+\sin y)$.


With a couple of rounds of squaring, one can re-write the two equations using, say, sines alone. The polynomials are degree $6$ in both $\sin x$ and $\sin y$. From there, the Method of Resultants (eg, invoking Mathematica's Resultant function) can eliminate one, leaving a polynomial in the other; when I try this, the final polynomial has four degree-six factors (presumably with many extraneous solutions).

Alternatively, we can convert to complex exponentials via $$\cos \theta = \frac12\left(e^{i\theta}+e^{-i\theta}\right)\qquad \sin \theta = \frac12\left(e^{i\theta} - e^{-i\theta}\right)$$ Defining $u := e^{ix}$ and $v := e^{iy}$, and noting that a comment from OP expresses $a=3c$ and $b=3d$, the equations can be written $$\begin{align} u^2 v^2 + 2 u^2 v - u v^2 + u - 2 v - 1 - 6 i c u v &= 0 \tag{1} \\ u^2 v^2 - u^2 v + 2 u v^2 - 2 u + v - 1 - 6 i d u v &= 0 \tag{2} \end{align}$$ Using resultants to eliminate $v$ gives $$\begin{align} 0 &= \phantom{2}u^6 \\ &+ \phantom{2}u^5 \left(1 - 6 ci\right) \\ &- \phantom{2}u^4 \left( 1 + \phantom{1}8 c^2 - 4 c d - 4 d^2 + 12 ci \right) \\ &- 2 u^3 \left( 1 + 10 c^2 + 4 c d + 4 d^2 \right) \\ &- \phantom{2}u^2 \left( 1 + \phantom{1}8 c^2 - 4 c d - 4 d^2 - 12 ci \right) \\ &+ \phantom{2} u\phantom{^2} \left(1 + 6 ci \right) \\ &+ 1 \end{align} \tag{3}$$ So, we still obtain a sixth-degree polynomial to solve (by numerical methods, unless there's some super-convenient relation between $c$ and $d$ that causes $(3)$ to factor). Of course, by $(1)$, each value of $u$ gives rise to up to two values of $v$; and all candidate $u$s and $v$s will have to tested for viability.


Hint: Multiplying the first equation by $-1$ and adding to the second equation we get $$b-a=3\sin(y)-3\sin(x)$$, solving this equation for $y$ we obtain $$y=-\arcsin(\frac{1}{3}a-\frac{1}{3}b-\sin(x))$$ this equation can be used to eliminate the variable $y$

  • $\begingroup$ @drsonnhardgraubner using $$y=\arcsin(\tfrac{b}{3} - \tfrac{a}{3} + \sin(x)) $$ and filling this in in $$a + b = \sin(x) + \sin(y) + 2\sin(x+y) $$ I find $$a+b =\sin(x) + \tfrac{b}{3} - \tfrac{a}{3} + \sin(x) + 2\sin(x)\cos(y)+2\sin(y)\cos(x) $$ Again using the expression for $y$ $$a+b+\tfrac{a}{3} - \tfrac{b}{3} = 2\sin(x) + 2\sin(x)\sqrt{1-(\tfrac{b}{3} - \tfrac{a}{3} + \sin(x))^2} + 2(\tfrac{b}{3} - \tfrac{a}{3} + \sin(x))\sqrt{1-\sin^2(x)}$$ $\endgroup$
    – Pete S
    Mar 2 '19 at 10:51
  • $\begingroup$ @sonnhardg reordering gives $$a+b+\tfrac{a}{3} - \tfrac{b}{3} = 2\sin(x) \left( 1 + \sqrt{1-(\tfrac{b}{3} - \tfrac{a}{3} + \sin(x))^2} + \sqrt{1-\sin^2(x)} \right) + 2(\tfrac{b}{3} - \tfrac{a}{3})\sqrt{1-\sin^2(x)}$$ How can this equality be simplified to an expression in the form $$sin(x) = ... $$ $\endgroup$
    – Pete S
    Mar 2 '19 at 10:54
  • $\begingroup$ To solve this equation is not easy, are values for $a,b$ given? $\endgroup$ Mar 2 '19 at 10:56
  • $\begingroup$ @sonnhardg No,these values are unknown. (In fact they are given in the form $a=3c$, $b=3d$, so the left side can be reduced to $2(2c+d))$) $\endgroup$
    – Pete S
    Mar 2 '19 at 11:05

The easiest way to solve the system exists.

We can greatly reduce the degree of the equation (from 6 to 2), simply by calculating the $cos(x+y)$, and then apply the fundamental formula of trigonometry.

The resulting equation is:

$9B sin(y)^{2}+6C sin(y)+F=0$,







The solutions of the equation are:



Choosing the first solution we have:




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