Rotation

All rigid body movements are rotations, translations, or combinations of the two.

A rotation is simply a progressive radial orientation to a common point. That common point lies within the axis of that motion. The axis is 90 degrees perpendicular to the plane of the motion.

Euler rotations of the Earth. Intrinsic (green), Precession (blue) and Nutation (red)

2 dimensional rotations, unlike the 3 dimensional ones, possess no axis of rotation. This is equivalent, for linear transformations, with saying that there is no direction in the place which is kept unchanged by a 2 dimensional rotation, except, of course, the identity.

As much as every tridimensional rotation has a rotation axis, also every tridimensional rotation has a plane, which is perpendicular to the rotation axis, and which is left invariant by the rotation. The rotation, restricted to this plane, is an ordinary 2D rotation.

The proof proceeds similarly to the above discussion. First, suppose that all eigenvalues of the 3D rotation matrix A are real. This means that there is an orthogonal basis, made by the corresponding eigenvectors (which are necessarily orthogonal), over which the effect of the rotation matrix is just stretching it. If we write A in this basis, it is diagonal; but a diagonal orthogonal matrix is made of just +1's and -1's in the diagonal entries. Therefore, we don't have a proper rotation, but either the identity or the result of a sequence of reflections.

This plane is orthogonal to the invariant axis, which corresponds to the remaining eigenvector of A, with eigenvalue 1, because of the orthogonality of the eigenvectors of A.