FITS File Format

updated: 2024-04-12

FITS Files (Flexible Image Transport System):

  • Purpose: FITS files are the standard format for storing astronomical data, including images. They serve as a container for various types of scientific information.
  • Endorsed by NASA and the International Astronomical Union
  • Header Information: FITS files have an ASCII (human-readable) header that can store details like camera type, temperature, exposure time, filter used, and even the photographer’s middle name (if desired). This rich metadata makes them valuable for scientific research.
  • Pixel Data: The actual image pixel data is stored in a multi-dimensional array (1D, 2D, or 3D), and it is not compressed. While the files can be large, they maintain high accuracy.
  • Compatibility: FITS files are not natively readable by common photo editing software but are widely supported by specialized astronomical applications.
  • Versioning: FITS versions are backward compatible, ensuring support for older versions.
  • Bit Depth: FITS supports bit depths ranging from 8-bit to 64-bit per pixel (BPP) or higher, making it versatile for various data types

FITS Description: FITS - Wikipedia

FITS Tools: FITS Image Viewer Page (

FITS file header viewer: FITS Utilities

FITS file and image processing tool: FITS Liberator

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