[AstroPy] The trouble with FITS.

Demitri Muna demitri.muna at gmail.com
Fri Jul 19 14:20:23 EDT 2013


I started a thread on astropy-dev [1] about a problem I was having reading a very large (~2GB) FITS file, and it led to a discussion about the FITS format itself. I wanted to redirect that conversation here as this list is more appropriate and deserves as wide an audience in the astronomical community as possible. (Not that this is it, but it's wider than astropy-dev.)

There are two - separate - issues here:

1) The FITS format is problematic, often hard to deal with, and its maintainers have given us the impression that there is negligible interest/resources to properly update the format into the 21st century. However, we acknowledge that FITS as a format is not going anywhere and needs to be supported into the indefinite future - there are literally decades of astronomical data in that format that cannot - should not! - be abandoned.

2) It is worth discussing a new astronomical format that is more modern and better to deal with. The first step in that process is coming up with a community sourced list of requirements that we would all have for this format.

To this end I'd like to open discussion. I've created two Google Drive documents (one for each point above) that anyone can edit. I'd recommend that discussion be kept on this list (as opposed to the documents), and that the documents contain the points distilled from the discussion.

The first document is here:


I will post the second one on a separate thread as I think these two discussions should remain separate.


Demitri Muna

Department of Astronomy
Ohio State University


[1] https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/astropy-dev/zRIZ6rr4JPg

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