Support for OI-FITS (optical interferometry data format) in Julia.
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Support for OI-FITS data in Julia

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The OIFITS.jl package provides support for OI-FITS data in Julia language.

OI-FITS types

OI-FITS is a standard to store optical interferometry data as a collection of data-blocks. In the second revision of the standard (see Ref. 1 and Ref. 2), an OI-FITS file may contain the following data-blocks:

  • an OI_TARGET data-block stores a list of observed targets;
  • each OI_ARRAY data-block describes a given array of telescope stations;
  • each OI_WAVELENGTH data-block describes a given instrument notably the effective wavelengths and bandwidths of its spectral channels;
  • OI_CORR data-blocks store correlation data;
  • OI_VIS data-blocks store complex visibility data;
  • OI_VIS2 data-blocks store squared visibility (powerspectrum) data;
  • OI_T3 data-blocks store triple product (bispectrum) data;
  • OI_FLUX data-blocks store spectral flux data;
  • OI_INSPOL data-blocks store instrumental polarization data.

These data-blocks are stored as binary tables in a FITS data file. The support for FITS files is provided by the FITSIO.jl package.

The Julia type of an OI-FITS data-block is named as the corresponding OI-FITS extension. In addition to these types for individual OI-FITS data-blocks, the OIFITS.jl package provides data-sets (of type OIDataSet) that contain several OI-FITS data-blocks. Each data-set is an efficient representation of the contents of a compliant OI-FITS file.

Reading and writing OI-FITS files

Reading and writing OI-FITS data-sets

Reading an OI-FITS data file in Julia yields a data-set and is done by:

using OIFITS
ds = read(OIDataSet, input)

where input it the name of the OI-FITS file or an instance of FITSIO.FITS which represents an open FITS file. The above read call is equivalent to the shortcut:

ds = OIDataSet(input)

It is possible to merge the contents of several OI-FITS file, say inp1, inp2, etc., by one of:

ds = read(OIDataSet, inp1, inp2, ...)
ds = OIDataSet(inp1, inp2, ...)

or to merge them into an existing data-set ds:

read!(ds, inp1, inp2, ...)

Creating an OI-FITS file is as simple as writing the data-set ds:

write(filename, ds)

Overwriting is forbidden by default, but the keyword overwrite=true may be specified to allow for silently overwriting an existing file.

Reading individual OI-FITS data-blocks

It may be useful to read individual OI-FITS data-blocks, to debug or to fix the contents of a non-compliant OI-FITS file. To that end, you must open the FITS file and can then read a given HDU as an OI-FITS data-block:

f = FITS(filename, "r")     # open FITS file for reading
tgt = OI_TARGET(f[i])       # read OI_TARGET extension in i-th HDU
tgt = read(OI_TARGET, f[i]) # idem
db = OI_VIS2(f[j])          # read OI_VIS2 extension in j-th HDU
db = read(OI_VIS2, f[j])    # idem

any OI-FITS data-block type can be used in that way. If the type of the i-th extension is not known, OIDataBlock can be used instead but the result is not type-stable:

db = OIDataBlock(f[i])       # read OI-FITS extension extension in i-th HDU
db = read(OIDataBlock, f[i]) # idem

Writing individual OI-FITS data-blocks is also possible:

f = FITS(filename, "w") # open FITS file for writing
write(f, db)            # write db in the next HDU of f

To fix a non-compliant OI-FITS file (usually duplicate target or instrument names), you can read all the data-blocks, fix those which are wrong and push them in order in an OIDataSet to have a consistent data-set which you can then directly use or write in an OI-FITS file for later. Thanks to the automatic rewriting of target identifiers and of the fact that targets (and other dependencies) are identified by their name and consistently merged, it is possible to push an OI_TARGET with multiply defined identical targets (apart maybe their identifiers).

Accessing the contents of data-blocks and data-sets

The contents of OI-FITS data-blocks and data-sets may be accessed by the dot notation but also by indexation.

Contents of data-sets

The dot notation can be used on a data-set object, say ds, storing a consistent set of OI-FITS data-blocks. The following properties are available:

  • ds.target is the OI_TARGET data-block of the OI-FITS structure.

  • ds.instr is a list of OI_WAVELENGTH data-blocks indexed by a regular integer index or by the instrument name:

    ds.instr[i]       # yields the i-th OI_WAVELENGTH data-block
    ds.instr[insname] # yields the OI_WAVELENGTH data-block whose name matches insname

    Matching of names follows FITS conventions that case of letters and trailing spaces are ignored. An exception is thrown if the index (integer or name) is not valid. The get method can be used to provide a default value, for example:

    get(ds.instr, insname, nothing)

    would yield nothing if insname is not found in ds.instr instead of throwing an exception.

  • ds.array is a list of OI_ARRAY data-blocks indexed like ds.instr except that interferometric array names are assumed.

  • ds.correl is a list of OI_CORR data-blocks indexed like ds.instr except that correlation data array names are assumed.

  • ds.vis is a vector of OI_VIS data-blocks.

  • ds.vis2 is a vector of OI_VIS2 data-blocks.

  • ds.t3 is a vector of OI_T3 data-blocks.

  • ds.flux is a vector of OI_FLUX data-blocks.

  • ds.inspol is a vector of OI_INSPOL data-blocks.

Other fields of data-sets shall be considered as private and not accessed directly.

Using the dot notation, it is easy to access the different data-blocks containing measurements. For instance:

for db in ds.vis2

is convenient to loop across all OI_VIS2 instances stored by ds.

Contents of data-blocks

The contents of a data-block, say db, may also be accessed by the dot notation. As a general rule, db.key or db.col yield the value of the keyword key or the contents of the column col of the OI-FITS table corresponding to the data-block db. In order to follow Julia conventions and to accommodate for a number of restrictions, key or col are the FITS keyword or column name converted to lower case letters and with non-alphanumeric letters replaced by underscores. For instance db.date_obs yields the value of the keyword DATE-OBS, that is the UTC start date of observations. The revision number corresponding to the keyword OI_REVN is however accessed as db.revn, this is the only exception. Other properties are also accessible via this syntax:

  • db.extname yields the OI-FITS name of the extension corresponding to the data-block db (for all data-block types);

  • db.array yields the OI_ARRAY data-block associated with data-block db (only for OI_VIS, OI_VIS2, OI_T3, OI_FLUX, and OI_INSPOL data-block). Beware that the association with an OI_ARRAY is optional, so db.array may be actually undefined; this can be checked by isdefined(db,:array).

  • db.instr yields the OI_WAVELENGTH data-block associated with data-block db (only for OI_VIS, OI_VIS2, OI_T3, and OI_FLUX data-block).

  • db.correl yields the OI_CORR data-block associated with data-block db (only for OI_VIS, OI_VIS2, OI_T3, and OI_FLUX data-block).

  • db.name is an alias for db.arrname for OI_ARRAY instances, for db.insname for OI_WAVELENGTH instances, and for db.corrname for OI_CORR instances.

Of course, getting a given property must make sense. For example, db.sta_name is only possible for an OI_ARRAY data-block but not for an OI_WAVELENGTH data-block. The dot notation can be however be chained and:


can be used to access the effective wavelengths of the measurements in db via the instrument associated to db. Shortcuts are provided:

λ  = db.eff_wave # get effective wavelength
Δλ = db.eff_band # get effective bandwidth

for OI_WAVELENGTH data-blocks but also for OI_VIS, OI_VIS2, OI_T3, and OI_FLUX data-blocks.

Some fields of a data-block db may however be undefined because:

  • the field is not yet defined (the data-block is being constructed);

  • the field is optional in the revision db.revn of the data-block;

  • the field (for example db.instr for an OI_VIS data-block) involves links with other data-blocks (the dependencies) and these links are only defined when a data-block is part of a data-set (see Building of data-sets below).

OI_TARGET data-blocks

For efficiency, instances of OI_TARGET data-blocks do not follow the same rules as other types of OI-FITS data-blocks whose properties are the columns of the corresponding OI-FITS table: in an OI_TARGET instance, all parameters describing a target are repesented by an OITargetEntry structure and all targets are stored as a vector of OITargetEntry. An OI_TARGET instance, say db, has the 3 following properties:

db.extname # yields "OI_TARGET"
db.list    # yields a vector of OITargetEntry instances
db.revn    # yields the revision number

The list of targets db.list can be indexed by an integer (as any Julia vector) or by the target name (case of letters and trailing spaces are irrelevant).

As an OI_TARGET data-blocks is essentially a vector of target entries, it can be used as an iterable and it can indexed by an integer index or by a target name:

length(db) # the number of targets, shortcut for `length(db.list)`
db[i]      # the i-th target, shortcut for `db.list[i]`
db[key]    # the target whose name matches string `key`, shortcut for `db.list[key]`

Standard methods get and haskey, applied to db.list or directly to db, work as expected and according to the type (integer or string) of the key. For the keys method, the default is to return an iterator over the target names, but the type of the expected keys can be specified:

get(db,key,def)   # yields `db[key]` or `def` if `key` not found
keys(db)          # iterator over target names
keys(String, db)  # idem
keys(Integer, db) # iterator over target indices
keys(Int, db)     # idem

The method OIFITS.get_column is a helper to recover a single target field as a vector:

OIFITS.get_column([T,] db, col)

yields the column col of an OI-FITS data-block db. Column is identified by col which is either sym or Val(sym) where sym is the symbolic name of the corresponding field in OITargetEntry. Optional argument T is to specify the element type of the returned array.

To build an OI_TARGET instance, you may provide the list of targets and the revision number:

OI_TARGET(lst=OITargetEntry[]; revn=0)

yields an OI_TARGET data-block. Optional argument lst is a vector of OITargetEntry specifying the targets (none by default). Keyword revn specifies the revision number.

A target entry may be constructed by specifying all its fields (there are many) by keywords, all of which but category are mandatory:

x = OITargetEntry(;
        target_id ::Integer,
        target    ::AbstractString,
        raep0     ::AbstractFloat,
        decep0    ::AbstractFloat,
        equinox   ::AbstractFloat,
        ra_err    ::AbstractFloat,
        dec_err   ::AbstractFloat,
        sysvel    ::AbstractFloat,
        veltyp    ::AbstractString,
        veldef    ::AbstractString,
        pmra      ::AbstractFloat,
        pmdec     ::AbstractFloat,
        pmra_err  ::AbstractFloat,
        pmdec_err ::AbstractFloat,
        parallax  ::AbstractFloat,
        para_err  ::AbstractFloat,
        spectyp   ::AbstractString,
        category  ::AbstractString = "")

It is also possible to specify another target entry, say ref, which is used as a template: any unspecified keyword is assume to have the same value as in ref:

x = OITargetEntry(ref;
        target_id = ref.target_id,
        target    = ref.target,

Note that, when an OI_TARGET instance is pushed in a data-set, target identifiers (field target_id) are automatically rewritten to be identical to the index in the list of targets of the data-set.

Building of data-sets

Pushing data-blocks to data-sets

Reading an OI-FITS file is the easiest way to define a data-set but a new OI-FITS data-set may be built by creating an empty data-set with OIDataSet(), and then pushing OI-FITS data-blocks in order with push!(...). Indeed, in order to ensure the consistency of a data-set, it is required to push the dependencies (OI_TARGET, OI_ARRAY, OI_WAVELENGTH, and OI_CORR data-blocks) before the data-blocks containing measurements (OI_VIS, OI_VIS2, OI_T3, OI_FLUX, and OI_INSPOL) that may refer to them.

For example, building a new data-set, say ds, looks like:

ds = OIDataSet() # create empty data-set
push!(ds, arr)   # push OI_ARRAY data-block(s)
push!(ds, ins)   # push OI_WAVELENGTH data-block(s)
push!(ds, cor)   # push OI_CORR data-block(s)
push!(ds, tgt)   # push OI_TARGET data-block
push!(ds, db1)   # push data
push!(ds, db2)   # push more data
push!(ds, db3)   # push even more data

with the dependencies:

  • arr an OI_ARRAY instance defining the interferometric array (zero or any number of such instances may be pushed),

  • ins an OI_WAVELENGTH instance defining the instrument (several such instances can be pushed),

  • cor an OI_COORREL instance defining the correlations (zero or any number of such instances can be pushed),

  • tgt an OI_TARGET instance defining the list of observed targets (at least one such instance is required, if more such instances are pushed in the same data-set, they are merged in a single one);

and where db1, db2, db3, etc., are instances of OI_VIS, OI_VIS2, OI_T3, OI_FLUX, or OI_INSPOL that provide measurements.

You may push all data-blocks in a single push! call:

ds = push!(OIDataSet(), arr, ins, cor, tgt, d1, db2, ...)

and the following shortcut is implemented:

ds = OIDataSet(arr, ins, cor, tgt, d1, db2, ...)

These two are equivalent to the multi-line example above, but remember that pushing data-blocks in order (i.e., dependencies before they may be referenced) is required to have a consistent data-set. Apart from this constraint, dependencies may be pushed in any order before the data-blocks with measurements and data-blocks with measurements can be pushed in any order after dependencies.

As a benefit of the constraint of pushing data-blocks in order, data-blocks with dependencies are automatically linked to these dependencies when pushed on the data-set (which implies that the dependencies already exist in the data-set). This allows for syntactic sugar like:

ds.vis2[i].eff_wave # the wavelengths of the i-th OI_VIS2 data-block in ds
ds.t3[i].array      # the interferometric array for the i-th OI_T3 data-block in ds
ds.vis[i].instr     # the instrument used for the i-th OI_VIS data-block in ds

Without linked dependencies, the first above example would require to (1) find in the data-set ds the OI_WAVELENGTH instance, say instr, whose name is matching ds.vi2[i].insname and (2) extract the field eff_wave of instr. The latter step is as simple as instr.eff_wave but the former one has some overheads and scales as O(n) with n the number of OI_WAVELENGTH instances in the data-set.

Since an OI-FITS data-set has a single list of targets (an OI_TARGET instance accessible via ds.target), a mean to merge list of targets had to be defined. The adopted rule is pretty simple:

The target_id field of any data-block that is part of a data-set corresponds to the index of the target entry in the list of targets stored by the data-set.

As a consequence, whenever a data-block is pushed into a data-set, the target identifiers of the data-block have to be rewritten according to this rule. Of course, this does not apply for data-blocks with no target_id field such as OI_ARRAY, OI_WAVELENGTH, and OI_CORR.

To summarize, here is what happens under the hood when a data-block db is pushed into a data-set ds:

  • When an OI_ARRAY, OI_WAVELENGTH, or OI_CORR instance db is pushed in a data-set ds, it is appended to the corresponding list (ds.array, ds.instr, or ds.correl) unless this list already has an entry with a name matching db.name. In this latter case, nothing is done unless that an assertion exception is thrown if the two data-blocks whose names are matching do not have the same contents (to prevent building inconsistent data-sets).

  • When an OI_TARGET instance is pushed in a data-set, the new targets (according to their names) are appended to the list of targets in the data-set and their identifiers set to their index in this list. This also re-initializes an internal dictionary used to perform the conversion from all the target identifiers of the OI_TARGET instance that has been pushed to the target identifiers in the data-set. Until it is reinitialized (by pushing another OI_TARGET instance), this mapping is used to rewrite the target identifiers of subsequent data-blocks pushed in the data-set.

  • When an OI_VIS, OI_VIS2, OI_T3, OI_FLUX, or OI_INSPOL instance db is pushed in a data-set ds, it is appended to the corresponding list (ds.vis, ds.vis2, db.t3, db.flux, or ds.inspol), after it has been linked to its dependencies (OI_ARRAY, OI_WAVELENGTH, etc., which must already exist in the data-set), and its target identifiers have been rewritten according to the mapping defined by the last OI_TARGET instance previously pushed to the data-set. Rewriting of the target identifiers may be avoided by using the keyword rewrite_target_id=false, this assumes that the target identifiers in the pushed data-block are already set according to the index in the list of targets ds.target.

Pushing a data-block in a data-set does check the consistency of the data-block. This is to allow for building the data-blocks step by step so that they not need to be consistent at all times (just when pushed into a data-set).

Pushing a data-block in a data-set lefts the data-block unchanged. A swallow copy of it is added to the data-blocks stored by the data-set. Most members of the pushed data-blocks are shared by the one stored by the data-set with the notable exception of the target identifiers which are rewritten and the links to the dependencies which are updated.

While it sounds complicated, the default rule of rewriting the target identifiers just amounts to assuming that the target identifiers of OI_VIS, OI_VIS2, OI_T3, OI_FLUX, or OI_INSPOL instances pushed in a data-set refer to the last OI_TARGET instance previously pushed on the same data-set.

Pushing several groups of data-blocks, each group making a consistent data-set, in the same data-set is easy. Typically:

# First push dependencies for group 1.
push!(ds, group1_arr) # push OI_ARRAY
push!(ds, group1_ins) # push OI_INS
push!(ds, group1_cor) # push OI_CORR
push!(ds, group1_tgt) # push OI_TARGET (reinitializing target_id mapping)
# Then push data for group 1 (using current target_id mapping).
push!(ds, group1_db1)
push!(ds, group1_db2)
# First push dependencies for group 2.
push!(ds, group2_arr) # push OI_ARRAY
push!(ds, group2_ins) # push OI_INS
push!(ds, group2_cor) # push OI_CORR
push!(ds, group2_tgt) # push OI_TARGET (reinitializing target_id mapping)
# Then push data for group 2 (using current target_id mapping).
push!(ds, group2_db1)
push!(ds, group2_db2)

Since they are referenced by their names, it is not necessary to push OI_ARRAY, OI_WAVELENGTH, and OI_COORREL dependencies if they already exist in the data-set (according to their name), but it doesn't hurt. It is however mandatory to push an OI_TARGET instance with all targets and their identifiers as assumed by the subsequent data-blocks.

Merging data-sets

Two OI-FITS data-sets (or more), say A and B, can be consistently merged together by:

C = merge(A, B)

As much as possible, the resulting data-set C will share its contents with A and/or B but without affecting A and B which are guaranteed to remain unchanged. As for pushing data-blocks, the target identifiers (the target_id field) may be rewritten in the result.

Merging of data-sets assumes that the two merged data-sets are consistent and compatible. Here compatible means that targets and dependencies with matching names must have the same contents. This is checked during the merge operation.

It is also allowed to merge several data-sets and/or merge data-sets in-place:

ds = merge(ds1, ds2, ds3, ...) # merge ds1, ds2, ... in new data-set ds
merge!(ds, ds1, ds2, ds3, ...) # merge ds1, ds2, ... in existing data-set ds

Note that merge!(ds,...) yields the destination ds.

Also note that, after merging, the internal dictionary used for rewriting target identifiers is left with the mapping built from the targets of the last merged data-set.


The development of this package has received funding from the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2013-2016) under Grant Agreement 312430 (OPTICON) and is currently supported by the Jean-Marie Mariotti Center (JMMC).


  1. Pauls, T. A., Young, J. S., Cotton, W. D., & Monnier, J. D. "A data exchange standard for optical (visible/IR) interferometry." Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, vol. 117, no 837, p. 1255 (2005). [pdf]

  2. Duvert, G., Young, J., & Hummel, C. "OIFITS 2: the 2nd version of the Data Exchange Standard for Optical (Visible/IR) Interferometry." arXiv preprint [arXiv:1510.04556v2.04556].

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