Cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) is a technique for discovering the 3D structures of small molecules. To perform this 3D reconstruction a large number of 2D images taken from unknown microscope positions must be correctly positioned back in 3D space. Although these microscope positions are unknown, the common lines of intersection of the image planes can be detected and used in 3D reconstruction. A major difficulty in this process is large amounts of noise in the common line data.

The set of all noiseless common lines forms a semi-algebraic set (a set defined by polynomial equalities and inequalities). We define and describe the geometry of this set, and briefly discuss applications.