CFITSIO supports the HIERARCH keyword convention which allows keyword names that are longer then 8 characters and may contain the full range of printable ASCII text characters. This convention was developed at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) to support hierarchical FITS keyword such as:
HIERARCH ESO INS FOCU POS = -0.00002500 / Focus positionBasically, this convention uses the FITS keyword 'HIERARCH' to indicate that this convention is being used, then the actual keyword name ('ESO INS FOCU POS' in this example) begins in column 10 and can contain any printable ASCII text characters, including spaces. The equals sign marks the end of the keyword name and is followed by the usual value and comment fields just as in standard FITS keywords. Further details of this convention are described at http://fits.gsfc.nasa.gov/registry/hierarch_keyword.html and in Section 4.4 of the ESO Data Interface Control Document that is linked to from http://archive.eso.org/cms/tools-documentation/eso-data-interface-control.html.
This convention allows a much broader range of keyword names than is allowed by the FITS Standard. Here are more examples of such keywords:
HIERARCH LongKeyword = 47.5 / Keyword has > 8 characters, and mixed case HIERARCH XTE$TEMP = 98.6 / Keyword contains the '$' character HIERARCH Earth is a star = F / Keyword contains embedded spacesCFITSIO will transparently read and write these keywords, so application programs do not in general need to know anything about the specific implementation details of the HIERARCH convention. In particular, application programs do not need to specify the `HIERARCH' part of the keyword name when reading or writing keywords (although it may be included if desired). When writing a keyword, CFITSIO first checks to see if the keyword name is legal as a standard FITS keyword (no more than 8 characters long and containing only letters, digits, or a minus sign or underscore). If so it writes it as a standard FITS keyword, otherwise it uses the hierarch convention to write the keyword. The maximum keyword name length is 67 characters, which leaves only 1 space for the value field. A more practical limit is about 40 characters, which leaves enough room for most keyword values. CFITSIO returns an error if there is not enough room for both the keyword name and the keyword value on the 80-character card, except for string-valued keywords which are simply truncated so that the closing quote character falls in column 80. In the current implementation, CFITSIO preserves the case of the letters when writing the keyword name, but it is case-insensitive when reading or searching for a keyword. The current implementation allows any ASCII text character (ASCII 32 to ASCII 126) in the keyword name except for the '=' character. A space is also required on either side of the equal sign.