Let $S$ be a finite set of points on the unit sphere $\mathbb{S}^2$. My question would be: is there an easy way to either find a great circle $C$ such that all points in $S$ are inside one of the hemispheres defined by $C$ or return that such a great circle does not exist.

This can of course also be seen as a problem in 3D, i.e. does there exist a plane through the origin, such that one of the halfplanes contains all of the points.

The only thing I could think of was like a "perceptron" style algorithm, but I'm not sure, if that algorithm would terminate, if a solution exists and also when to stop if it does not exist.

Does anyone have a "more sophisticated" idea?

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    $\begingroup$ I may be wrong, but I think that computing the convex hull of $S$ and checking if the origin is inside of it may do the trick. $\endgroup$
    – Nathaniel
    Apr 13, 2022 at 14:38
  • $\begingroup$ I think that this would work too! thanks. Now the question that remains is: how to get the great circle/plane that induces the hemisphere/halfspace. I think I could solve it using a linear program but it seems like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. $\endgroup$ Apr 14, 2022 at 7:40
  • $\begingroup$ There is nothing overkill about using linear programming. In fixed dimension, it has linear complexity, that's faster than computing the convex hull. $\endgroup$ Jun 13, 2022 at 22:57

1 Answer 1


As suggested by Nathaniel, first find the convex hull of $S$. Now note that there would exist a plane of the convex hull with the property that its one side contains all the points in $S$ and the other side contains the origin. Let this plane be $ax + by + cz = d$. Then, the plane passing through the origin would be $ax + by +cz = 0$; it would induce the required halfspace.

You can get the plane $ax + by + cz = d$ by finding the convex hull in $O(n \log n)$ and verifying the property for each plane in $O(n)$ time.


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