A degree, usually denoted by °, is a measurement of a plane angle, defined so that a full rotation is 360 degrees. It is not an SI unit, as the SI unit of measure is the radian. Because a full rotation equals 2π radians, one degree is equivalent to π/180 radians, the original motivation for choosing the degree as a unit of rotations and angles is unknown. One theory states that it is related to the fact that 360 is approximately the number of days in a year. Ancient astronomers noticed that the sun, which follows through the path over the course of the year. Some ancient calendars, such as the Persian calendar, used 360 days for a year, the use of a calendar with 360 days may be related to the use of sexagesimal numbers. The earliest trigonometry, used by the Babylonian astronomers and their Greek successors, was based on chords of a circle, a chord of length equal to the radius made a natural base quantity. One sixtieth of this, using their standard sexagesimal divisions, was a degree, Aristarchus of Samos and Hipparchus seem to have been among the first Greek scientists to exploit Babylonian astronomical knowledge and techniques systematically. Timocharis, Aristarchus, Aristillus, Archimedes, and Hipparchus were the first Greeks known to divide the circle in 360 degrees of 60 arc minutes, eratosthenes used a simpler sexagesimal system dividing a circle into 60 parts. Furthermore, it is divisible by every number from 1 to 10 except 7 and this property has many useful applications, such as dividing the world into 24 time zones, each of which is nominally 15° of longitude, to correlate with the established 24-hour day convention. Finally, it may be the case more than one of these factors has come into play. For many practical purposes, a degree is a small enough angle that whole degrees provide sufficient precision. When this is not the case, as in astronomy or for geographic coordinates, degree measurements may be written using decimal degrees, with the symbol behind the decimals. Alternatively, the sexagesimal unit subdivisions can be used. One degree is divided into 60 minutes, and one minute into 60 seconds, use of degrees-minutes-seconds is also called DMS notation. These subdivisions, also called the arcminute and arcsecond, are represented by a single and double prime. For example,40. 1875° = 40° 11′ 15″, or, using quotation mark characters, additional precision can be provided using decimals for the arcseconds component. The older system of thirds, fourths, etc. which continues the sexagesimal unit subdivision, was used by al-Kashi and other ancient astronomers, but is rarely used today
One degree (shown in red) and eighty nine degrees (shown in blue)
A circle with an equilateral chord (red). One sixtieth of this arc is a degree. Six such chords complete the circle.