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Paper: Significant Problems in FITS Limit Its Use in Modern Astronomical Research
Volume: 485, Astronomical Data Analysis Software and Systems XXIII
Page: 351
Authors: Thomas, B.; Jenness, T.; Economou, F.; Greenfield, P.; Hirst, P.; Berry, D. S.; Bray, E. M.; Gray, N.; Muna, D.; Turner, J.; de Val-Borro, M.; Santander-Vela, J.; Shupe, D.; Good, J.; Berriman, G.B.
Abstract: The Flexible Image Transport System (FITS) standard has been a great boon to astronomy, allowing observatories, scientists, and the public to exchange astronomical information easily. The FITS standard is, however, showing its age. Developed in the late 1970s the FITS authors made a number of implementation choices for the format that, while common at the time, are now seen to limit its utility with modern data. The authors of the FITS standard could not appreciate the challenges which we would be facing today in astronomical computing. Difficulties we now face include, but are not limited to, having to address the need to handle an expanded range of specialized data product types (data models), being more conducive to the networked exchange and storage of data, handling very large datasets and the need to capture significantly more complex and data relationships. There are members of the community today who find some (or all) of these limitations unworkable, and have decided to move ahead with storing data in other formats. This reaction should be taken as a wakeup call to the FITS community to make changes in the FITS standard, or to see its usage fall. In this paper we detail some selected important problems which exist within the FITS standard today. It is not our intention to prescribe specific remedies to these issues; rather, we hope to call attention of the FITS and greater astronomical computing communities to these issues in the hopes that it will spur action to address them.
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