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FITS is a very well-established format for storage of astronomical table or image data (see This writer stores tables in a FITS file consisting of two HDUs (Header+Data Units): a Primary HDU as required by the FITS standard, and a single extension of type BINTABLE containing the table data.

There are a few variants of this format:

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 it is re-read by this or compatible applications however, they can 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.
The primary HDU contains only very minimal headers and no data.
Behaves like fits-basic, but columns containing variable-length numeric array data are stored using the P and Q formats where appropriate, rather than padding smaller arrays to the size of the largest. This can make for more compact storage of variable-length array-valued column data but may also result in tables less suitable for streaming.
Used for storing HEALPix pixel data in a way that conforms to the HEALPix-FITS serialization convention. In most ways it behaves the same as fits-basic, but it will rearrange and rename columns as required to follow the convention, and it will fail if the table does not contain the required HEALPix metadata (STIL_HPX_* parameters).
The default output format is fits-plus; in general you don't need to worry about this, it just gives you some hidden benefits over fits-basic.

A private convention is used where required to support encoding of tables with more than 999 columns (not possible in standard FITS); this was discussed on the FITSBITS mailing list in July 2017 in the thread BINTABLE convention for >999 columns. If software unaware of this convention (e.g. CFITSIO) is used to read such tables, it will only see the first 998 columns written as intended, plus a column 999 containing an undescribed byte buffer.

The handler behaviour may be modified by specifying one or more comma-separated name=value configuration options in parentheses after the handler name, e.g. "fits-plus(date=true)". The following options are available:

date = true|false
If true, the DATE-HDU header is filled in with the current date; otherwise it is not included.

Multiple tables may be written to a single output file using this format.

If no output format is explicitly chosen, writing to a filename with the extension ".fit", ".fits" or ".fts" (case insensitive) will select fits-plus format for output.

For column-oriented FITS table output, see Section

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