6. The CFITSIO Iterator Function

The fits_iterate_data function in CFITSIO provides a unique method of executing an arbitrary user-supplied `work' function that operates on rows of data in FITS tables or on pixels in FITS images. Rather than explicitly reading and writing the FITS images or columns of data, one instead calls the CFITSIO iterator routine, passing to it the name of the user's work function that is to be executed along with a list of all the table columns or image arrays that are to be passed to the work function. The CFITSIO iterator function then does all the work of allocating memory for the arrays, reading the input data from the FITS file, passing them to the work function, and then writing any output data back to the FITS file after the work function exits. Because it is often more efficient to process only a subset of the total table rows at one time, the iterator function can determine the optimum amount of data to pass in each iteration and repeatedly call the work function until the entire table been processed.

For many applications this single CFITSIO iterator function can effectively replace all the other CFITSIO routines for reading or writing data in FITS images or tables. Using the iterator has several important advantages over the traditional method of reading and writing FITS data files:

There are basically 2 steps in using the CFITSIO iterator function. The first step is to design the work function itself which must have a prescribed set of input parameters. One of these parameters is a structure containing pointers to the arrays of data; the work function can perform any desired operations on these arrays and does not need to worry about how the input data were read from the file or how the output data get written back to the file.

The second step is to design the driver routine that opens all the necessary FITS files and initializes the input parameters to the iterator function. The driver program calls the CFITSIO iterator function which then reads the data and passes it to the user's work function.

The following 2 sections describe these steps in more detail. There are also several example programs included with the CFITSIO distribution which illustrate how to use the iterator function.