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General Search Options and Operators
Search values can be specified in several different ways, depending
on the data type of the field. In all cases, a single value can
be entered (although this is not recommented for floating point values).
various operators can be included depending on the data type of the
field as described below.
The data types for each column can be displayed using the "Field Descriptions"
link at the top of all MAST search forms.
Numerical fields - Real (i.e., real,
numeric, float, or double) and Integer (i.e., long) fields can be
specified as a single value, as a single value with numerical operators
such as "< n", ">= n", and "!= n", "\null",
or as an inclusive range (e.g., "1990 .. 2000").
Bcause of small differences in stored floating point values, specifying
a single floating point value may not return the expected results.
Therefore, numerical or range operators are recommended with floating point
fields queries. Integers may be requested either way.
The number of digits displayed to the right of the
decimal point for floating point numbers is determined solely by the
data type. If the data type is "real" only 1 digit is displayed, and
for "numeric" 2 digits are displayed. "Float" data types have 3, and "double"
can have up to 8 or more.
String fields - String fields, also
known as "char" or "varchar" fields,
can use the = (equal), != (not equal, e.g., != SMALL), \null ,
or the "*" , "%" wildcard operators (e.g. "Jup*").
By default, string searches use equals ("=") which runs faster
without wild cards but implies matches must be exact. For example, searching on
Target description = "Planet" will not
return an entry for "Planet:Jupiter". (There are some exceptions though such as
searching on Kepler Investigation ID will automatically include wild cards.)
Wildcards are allowed
and encouraged when an exact match is not desired, so in the previous
example, searching on Planet* would return all entries beginning with the word Planet.
Quotes are not necessary for string values.
Since moving to the Microsoft SQL Server database system in 2009, string
searches are no longer case-sensitive. Values will still be displayed in the same
case they were originally entered, but entries will be found regardless of the
case of the searched string (i.e., searching for HST id "go-5916" or "GO-5916"
will return the same entries).
Also, as with any data type, commas can be used to search for multiple entries.
For example, to search for all O3 and B3 stars from the Skiff catalog,
just enter O3*,B3*. Likewise, entering \null,<5 will return values that are
either null or less than 5.
Substring fields - A few fields have a data type of "substring"
wildcard operators are automatically added at the beginning and end of
the input string. For example, entering "Comets" for the K2 Object type
will search for "*comets*".
Commas still work as with other data types, so entering "Exoplanet,red" for the Kepler
condition flag (another substring field)
will search for condition flags = "*exoplanet*" or condition flags = "*red*".
Note these special cases do not apply to casjob searches.
Bibstring fields - Bibstrings are a special
string field for storing ADS bibcodes. A bibstring value has 19 characters,
and its assumed that no operators other than wild cards are included in
queries. This data type was mainly added because ".." was normally interpreted
as a range search request. For a bibstring field, specifying 2101ApJ..*
means find all entries whose bibcode begins with 2010ApJ..
Coordinate fields - Generally you can specify a variety
of formats for Right Ascension and Declination using either decimal
degrees or sexagesimal values (RA in decimal hours is
also available, but only as an output format option). The allowed search
formats are described in detail below.
Date fields - Dates can also be specified in a variety
of formats and can also use operators and inclusive range searches.
Here are some allowed/recommended examples:
> Jul 15 1994
Dec 1 1995 .. Dec 6 1995
01-jan-2009 .. 15-feb-2010
2009-05-11 17:51:31 (but date match must be exact)
20090115 .. 20100101
dec 2009 .. jan 2010
2009 jan .. 2010 jan
2009 .. 2010
Formats found not to work or not recommended include:
15 Jul 2005 (valid format but only returns entries with a value of 15 Jul 2005 00:00:00)
15JUL2009 (same problem as above)
15-jul-2009 (same problem as above)
2009-01 (same problem as above)
2009-10 .. 2010-01 (doesn't seem to work)
2009-10-01 .. jan-01-2010 (don't mix formats in range searches)
jan-15-2009 .. feb-01-2010 (putting month before day doesn't work with dashes!)
Dec 15 2009 .. Dec 01 2009 (earlier date should be listed first)
Often queries on a single date will fail because the database can store
datetime fields to the millisecond and the matches must be exact. It is
preferable to use a range or the <, > operators.
Note that when the time is not specified, the query will default to 00:00:00.
Therefore without specifying times, a range search would include the starting date
but exclude the ending date. Leaving off the day or month would work similarly.
To see the data type of a particular field, click on the form element
label or any of the help page links.
Note quotes are not needed for any values.
Note, searches on "null" values in fields of any data type
are now possible by entering \null.
By default, the various search criteria will be submitted
using logical AND's. Logical OR's
are not supported on most mission search forms except when using
commas within a single form element such as entering "hc230,srhlw"
for IUE program ID to return entries with ID hc230 OR srhlw..
Information on individual search form elements is listed below.
Note that specific examples given below do not necessarily apply
to all missions. The examples are merely intended to show valid
formats for data entry.
The Right Ascension and Declination values are specified
in either decimal degrees or sexagesimal notation. If single values are
entered, a cone search is performed using the specified search radius
The usual default radius is 3 arcminutes, but this varies with mission.
For example, for Kepler the default is only 0.02 arcminutes while
for VLAFIRST it's 20.
Although decimal hours is NOT an allowed input format, Right Ascension
search results may optionally be displayed as decimal hours
(see the "Output Coords" form element).
Note the examples listed below (and elsewhere) are only intended to
show the format of the form entries. There is no guarantee that entering
these specific values will return any search results.
You may also enter ranges of right ascension or declination,
using the ".." operator. For example, you can enter
21h 51m .. 21h 52m for the right ascension, and
28 51 .. 29 51 for the declination.
Comparators can also be used, i.e. ">", ">=", "<", "<=".
For example, "> 85" as a declination value will return
all observations with declination larger than 85 degrees.
(Note when ranges of coordinates are specified the search
radius will be ignored. Also, searches on ranges can be
quite time consuming.)
Coordinate values may be specified using a number of
formats. Examples of accepted values include:
Hours, minutes and Seconds
12 22 31.98 29 53 45.55
12h 22m 31.98s 29d 53m 45.55s
12h 22' 31.98" 29d 53' 45.55"
12h 22' 31.98" -29d 53' 45.55"
12h 22' 31".98 -29d 53' 45".55
Hours/Degrees and Minutes (no seconds)
12 22 29 53
12h 22m 29d 53m
12h 22' 29d 53'
12h 22' -29d 53'
The RA may be given in decimal degrees by indicating
a D or d after the degrees:
12d 22m 29d 53m
Spacing is not important, as long as the value is unambiguous.
You can delimit the hours/degrees, minutes, and (optional) seconds with
letters, colons, spaces, or any character that's not a digit or a
Like target names, multiple coordinates can be entered if separated by commas.
On output, coordinates from all missions are displayed with the same number
of digits to the right of the decimal point. As of June 2012,
the number of digits displayed was increased from 5 to 7 for
decimal degrees, from 2 to 3 for RA in sexigesimal notatation and
from 1 to 2 for Declination in sexigesimal notation.
For some missions, this may imply more precision than warranted, and
trailing 0's may not be significant.