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fitsio -- Overview of the `fitsio' package.


The `fitsio' package is a set of tasks that translate IRAF and text files to and from FITS standard format. See the "REFERENCES" section below for more information about the FITS standard adopted for this package. A brief summary of the tasks in `fitsio' is given in the table below; general information about these FITS utilities can be found in the following sections.

                     Table 1.  FITS Utilities
 | Task        | Description                                     |
 | fits_exampl | Background information about FITS format files  |
 | catfits     | Produce a catalog of FITS file contents         |
 | fitscopy    | Copy a FITS file: disk or tape -> disk or tape  |
 | geis        | Background information about GEIS format files  |
 | gftoxdim    | Multigroup GEIS -> one group + extra dimension  |
 | strfits     | Convert FITS files -> tables and/or images      |
 | stwfits     | Convert tables and/or images -> FITS files      |
 | xdimtogf    | One-group GEIS + extra dimension -> multi-group |

Note that the input or output FITS files for these tasks can in general reside either on disk or on tape, but the IRAF files reside strictly on disk.


The task `stwfits' can create FITS files from IRAF supported data structures, including both native IRAF (OIF) and Space Telescope (GEIS) image formats, as well as STSDAS binary tables and ASCII files. This task is especially useful for converting multigroup GEIS images to FITS files. The FITS files are by default written in IEEE format, where the precision of single and double precision floating-point numbers are preserved (or nearly preserved: type "help stwfits" for more details) without the need for scaling the data. However, this option can be disabled (for images) if scaling is desired for some reason.

The `stwfits' task can also write STSDAS tables as FITS files with TABLE (ASCII) or BINTABLE (binary) extensions. Similarly, it can write a text file with up to 132 characters per line as a standard FITS TABLE (ASCII) extension. However, the input text file MUST have the extension "txt" or "trl".

The `strfits' task can convert FITS files to IRAF data structures, particularly the FITS files produced by the `stwfits' task. `strfits' can read FITS files with any number of the standard extensions: IMAGE, TABLE, BINTABLE. If there are one or more IMAGE extensions in the FITS file, and if the FITS header FILENAME keyword is set properly (e.g., FILENAME = geis.c1h[1/4]), `strfits' will attempt to create a multigroup GEIS file; otherwise separate images or tables (as appropriate) will be created.


Data from the Hubble Space Telescope is stored on disk in Space Telescope Format (STF, also called GEIS) format. Like the native IRAF (or OIF) format, GEIS images are stored in two files, with default file extentions of ".hhh" for the header and ".hhd" for the binary data. The two biggest differences between OIF and GEIS files, from the users' point of view, are that GEIS format can accomodate multiple images in a single file, and that some of the image descriptors are found in the binary data file, rather than in the header file.

The GEIS multi-group format was designed to accommodate data such as time-resolved spectroscopy, where many small data arrays share common header information, but also have a certain amount of array-specific information. That array-specific information is stored in the binary data file just after each image in a special area called the "group parameter block" (GPB). The description of each group parameter (GP) in the GPB is given in the GEIS header file. The `strfits' and `stwfits' tasks can preserve this structure when translating GEIS files to and from FITS. More information about the GEIS format can be found in the `geis' help page or the "STSDAS Users Guide".

As its name implies, FITS format is very flexible. Indeed, the various extensions to FITS can yield quite complex data structures. As such, there is more than one legitimate way to map multi-group GEIS files to FITS format. Each method can be accomodated by the `strfits' and `stwfits' tasks, but each presents different requirements when using `strfits' to recreate the original GEIS image. The mappings are summarized below; the details can be found in the help files for `fits_exampl', `strfits', and `stwfits'.

Multi-group -> Multiple FITS Files
This is perhaps the simplest way to map from GEIS to FITS, in that each group is written to a separate FITS image. Here each FITS header is composed of the GEIS ASCII header, with the addition of new "keyword = value" pairs to contain the information from the GPB for that group. Note that the information about which keywords were taken from the GPB is lost with this mapping, so that a template image header will be needed to re-create the original GEIS file with `strfits'. In this case, it is best to use a header file that has the original GPB description (e.g., if the FITS files contain WF/PC data, use a header file such as "scidata$wfpc.hhh"), rather than the minimal default header if a template is not supplied.
Multi-group -> Stacked Image -> Single FITS File
This is presently the best way to map between GEIS and FITS files because the GPB information is retained. In this case an extra dimension is added to the FITS file and the length of that axis is the number of groups in the input GEIS file. As well, the names of the group parameters are appended to the main FITS header, with values taken from the first group. The GPB values for each group are stored in a "TABLE" extension in the same FITS file. The value of the keywords "FILENAME" and "EXTNAME" contain the name of the original GEIS file followed by "_cvt", which indicates to the user that the FITS file originated from a multi-group GEIS file.
Multi-group -> Single FITS File with Extensions
Instead of adding an extra dimension (as in case 2) to the FITS file, the separate groups are written to a single FITS file with FITS "IMAGE" extensions. There is no attached table, and the GPB keywords and values are part of the header of the corresponding IMAGE extensions. The major difference with the first case is that there is only one FITS file. This IMAGE extension capability is useful to avoid losing the logical connection between the separate image groups. WARNING: It is NOT yet possible to recreate the original GEIS file GPB from a FITS file with multiple "IMAGE" extensions. This capability is planned for the near future.

WARNING: The IRAF tasks `rfits' and `wfits' in the `dataio' package are NOT designed to handle multi-group GEIS files or binary tables. Users should be aware that these IRAF FITS tasks may not produce data structures that are compatible with certain STSDAS tasks!


The `gftoxdim' task in the fitsio package will stack the groups in a multigroup GEIS image to produce a new, single-group GEIS image with one more dimension. The length of the axis in the highest dimension will be the number of groups in the original image. A separate STSDAS binary table will also be created which contains the information in the GPB.

The `xdimtogf' task will do the opposite of `gftoxdim': it will convert a GEIS file with an added dimension (plus an STSDAS table with the GPB information) to the original multigroup GEIS file. Both of these operations, if needed, are done automatically by `strfits' and `stwfits', and so neither `gftoxdim' nor `xdimtogf' is needed for translating to and from FITS format. These tasks are merely provided as a general tool for users.


The `catfits' task will generate a catalog of FITS files, whether on disk or (more commonly) on tape. The output can be the full FITS header for each file, and each extension within a file; or a summary of the file, including the file name (for disk files) or file number (for tape files), the number and type of extensions (if present), the number of axes and their lengths, the data type, and the scaling parameters. The specific information in the summary is user-configurable.


catfits, fits_exampl, fitscopy, geis, gftoxdim, strfits, stwfits, xdimtogf


This package was developed by Nelson Zarate (STScI) and is based on the IRAF `dataio' package of FITS utilities. The FITS standard adopted for this package is that described by the NASA/OSSA Office of Standard and Technology document entitled "Implementation of the Flexible Image Transport System (FITS)" including the appendix.

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This file last updated on 15 Sep 2011