Next Previous Up Contents
Next: Column-oriented FITS
Up: Supported Output Formats
Previous: Supported Output Formats

4.1.2.1 FITS

When saving in 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.

There are two variants of this format:

fits-basic
The primary HDU contains only very minimal headers and no data.
fits-plus
The primary HDU contains an array of bytes which stores the full table metadata as the text of a VOTable document, along with headers that mark this has been done. Most FITS table readers will ignore this altogether and treat the file just as if it contained only the table. When TOPCAT (or other STIL-based applications) read it however, they read out the metadata and make it available for use. In this way you can store your data in the efficient and widely portable FITS format without losing the additional metadata such as table parameters, column UCDs, lengthy column descriptions etc that may be attached to the table. Other, more standard schemes exist for combining the benefits of FITS and VOTable, but suffer from some disadvantages: votable-fits-inline is hard to process efficiently (in particular the data cannot easily be mapped into memory) and votable-fits-href requires that you keep your data in two separate files, which can get separated from each other. If you want to ensure that the metadata are available to other VOTable-aware programs, you should use one of the normal VOTable formats.
In general, you can just let TOPCAT detect the format automatically and not worry about which of these variants is being used - if fits-plus is being used you just get some hidden benefits.


Next Previous Up Contents
Next: Column-oriented FITS
Up: Supported Output Formats
Previous: Supported Output Formats

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