To use the law of sines we need a known side opposite a known angle. Sometimes we do not have that information, as when, for example, we know three sides and no angle. We can still solve such a triangle using the law of cosines.

Consider an oblique triangle ABC as shown in Fig. 8-27. As we did for the law of sines, we start by dividing the triangle into two right triangles by drawing an altitude h to side AC.

In right triangle ABD,

- c
^{2}= h^{2}+ (AD)^{2}

But AD = b − CD. Substituting, we get

Now, in right triangle BCD, by the definition of the cosine,

or

Substituting a cos C for CD in Equation (1) yields

- c
^{2}= h^{2}+ (b − a cos C)^{2}

Squaring, we have

Let us leave this expression for the moment and write the Pythagorean theorem for the same triangle BCD.

- h
^{2}= a^{2}− (CD)^{2}

Again substituting a cos C for CD, we obtain

Substituting this expression for h^{2} back into (2), we get

- c
^{1}= a^{2}− a^{2}cos^{2}C + b^{2}− 2ab cos ...

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