Alexander S. Szalay, Gyorgy Fekete, William O'Mullane, Maria A. Nieto-Santisteban, Aniruddha R. Thakar, Gerd Heber, and Arnold H. Rots
We explored ways of doing spatial search within a relational database: (1) hierarchical triangular mesh (a tessellation of the sphere), (2) a zoned bucketing system, and (3) representing areas as disjunctive-normal form constraints. Each of these approaches has merits. They all allow efficient point-in-region queries. A relational representation for regions allows Boolean operations among them and allows quick tests for point-in-region, regions-containing point, and region overlap. The speed of these algorithms is much improved by a zone and multi-scale zone-pyramid scheme. The approach has the virtue that the zone mechanism works well on B-Trees native to all SQL systems and integrates naturally with current query optimizers – rather than requiring a new spatial access method and concomitant query optimizer extensions. Over the last 5 years, we have used these techniques extensively in our work on SkyServer.sdss.org, and SkyQuery.net.