Calculating/showing a search area

Discussion created by rewurzb on Dec 11, 2013
I am brand new to ArcGIS and mapping in general. I am trying to define a rectangular search area around segment of a ship's course defined solely by a start lat/long, a stop lat/long, and a distance (could be Km or miles). My planned approach is to calculate the 4 points of the search rectangle using those 3 values. For example, I might want to define a search area along a course defined by the two points which extends 25 miles to either side of the line of travel, and includes 25 miles behind and in front of the line. I am assuming a straight line of travel.

I need help regarding both issues:

1) I have no experience in calculating lat/longs. If you have a module or modules (or formulas) that I could use to help me define what I need, I would would certainly appreciate seeing them. Or, if you can recommend any websites that would help me with defining those calculations, that would be appreciated as well.
2) I am new to ArcGIS and want to write a program using Python  to display the region of earth containing the segment of travel defined by the two lat/long points, a line showing the line of travel, and a rectangle showing the search area. Any recommendations you can give regarding which combination of calls to make, or what approach to take, would be helpful.