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The `earthdistance` module provides
two different approaches to calculating great circle distances on
the surface of the Earth. The one described first depends on the
`cube` package (which must be installed before `earthdistance` can be installed). The second one
is based on the built-in `point` data type,
using longitude and latitude for the coordinates.

In this module, the Earth is assumed to be perfectly spherical. (If that's too inaccurate for you, you might want to look at the PostGIS project.)

Data is stored in cubes that are points (both corners are
the same) using 3 coordinates representing the x, y, and z
distance from the center of the Earth. A domain `earth` over `cube` is provided,
which includes constraint checks that the value meets these
restrictions and is reasonably close to the actual surface of
the Earth.

The radius of the Earth is obtained from the `earth()`

function. It is given in meters. But
by changing this one function you can change the module to use
some other units, or to use a different value of the radius
that you feel is more appropriate.

This package has applications to astronomical databases as
well. Astronomers will probably want to change `earth()`

to return a radius of `180/pi()` so that distances are in degrees.

Functions are provided to support input in latitude and longitude (in degrees), to support output of latitude and longitude, to calculate the great circle distance between two points and to easily specify a bounding box usable for index searches.

The following functions are provided:

Table F-4. Cube-based earthdistance functions

Function | Returns | Description |
---|---|---|

`earth()` |
float8 |
Returns the assumed radius of the Earth. |

`sec_to_gc(float8)` |
float8 |
Converts the normal straight line (secant) distance between between two points on the surface of the Earth to the great circle distance between them. |

`gc_to_sec(float8)` |
float8 |
Converts the great circle distance between two points on the surface of the Earth to the normal straight line (secant) distance between them. |

```
ll_to_earth(float8,
float8)
``` |
earth |
Returns the location of a point on the surface of the Earth given its latitude (argument 1) and longitude (argument 2) in degrees. |

`latitude(earth)` |
float8 |
Returns the latitude in degrees of a point on the surface of the Earth. |

`longitude(earth)` |
float8 |
Returns the longitude in degrees of a point on the surface of the Earth. |

```
earth_distance(earth,
earth)
``` |
float8 |
Returns the great circle distance between two points on the surface of the Earth. |

```
earth_box(earth,
float8)
``` |
cube |
Returns a box suitable for an indexed search using
the cube @> operator for
points within a given great circle distance of a
location. Some points in this box are further than the
specified great circle distance from the location, so a
second check using `earth_distance` should be included in
the query. |

The second part of the module relies on representing Earth
locations as values of type `point`, in
which the first component is taken to represent longitude in
degrees, and the second component is taken to represent
latitude in degrees. Points are taken as (longitude, latitude)
and not vice versa because longitude is closer to the intuitive
idea of x-axis and latitude to y-axis.

A single operator is provided:

Table F-5. Point-based earthdistance operators

Operator | Returns | Description |
---|---|---|

point <@> point |
float8 |
Gives the distance in statute miles between two points on the Earth's surface. |

Note that unlike the `cube`-based part
of the module, units are hardwired here: changing the
`earth()`

function will not affect
the results of this operator.

One disadvantage of the longitude/latitude representation is
that you need to be careful about the edge conditions near the
poles and near +/- 180 degrees of longitude. The `cube`-based representation avoids these
discontinuities.