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4.1.2.2 Column-oriented FITS

When saving in column-oriented FITS format a new file is written consisting of two HDUs (Header+Data Units); a primary one (required by the FITS standard) and a single extension of type BINTABLE containing the table data. Unlike normal FITS format however, this table consists of a single row in which each cell holds the data for an entire column. This can be a more efficient format to work with when dealing with very large, and especially very wide, tables. The benefits are greatest when the file size exceeds the amount of available physical memory and operations are required which scan through the table using only a few of the columns (much of TOPCAT's operations, for instance plotting two columns against each other, fit into this category). The overhead for reading and writing this format is somewhat higher than for normal FITS however, and other applications may not be able to work with it (though it is a legal FITS file), so in most cases normal FITS is a more suitable choice.

Like normal (row-oriented) FITS (see Section 4.1.2.1), there are two variants:

colfits-plus
The primary HDU contains an array of bytes which stores the table metadata in VOTable format.
colfits-basic
The primary HDU contains no data.


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TOPCAT - Tool for OPerations on Catalogues And Tables
Starlink User Note253
TOPCAT web page: http://www.starlink.ac.uk/topcat/
Author email: m.b.taylor@bristol.ac.uk
Mailing list: topcat-user@jiscmail.ac.uk