1.1 A Brief Overview

CFITSIO is a machine-independent library of routines for reading and writing data files in the FITS (Flexible Image Transport System) data format. It can also read IRAF format image files and raw binary data arrays by converting them on the fly into a virtual FITS format file. This library is written in ANSI C and provides a powerful yet simple interface for accessing FITS files which will run on most commonly used computers and workstations. CFITSIO supports all the features described in the official definition of the FITS format and can read and write all the currently defined types of extensions, including ASCII tables (TABLE), Binary tables (BINTABLE) and IMAGE extensions. The CFITSIO routines insulate the programmer from having to deal with the complicated formatting details in the FITS file, however, it is assumed that users have a general knowledge about the structure and usage of FITS files.

CFITSIO also contains a set of Fortran callable wrapper routines which allow Fortran programs to call the CFITSIO routines. See the companion “FITSIO User's Guide” for the definition of the Fortran subroutine calling sequences. These wrappers replace the older Fortran FITSIO library which is no longer supported.

The CFITSIO package was initially developed by the HEASARC (High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center) at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center to convert various existing and newly acquired astronomical data sets into FITS format and to further analyze data already in FITS format. New features continue to be added to CFITSIO in large part due to contributions of ideas or actual code from users of the package. The Integral Science Data Center in Switzerland, and the XMM/ESTEC project in The Netherlands made especially significant contributions that resulted in many of the new features that appeared in v2.0 of CFITSIO.