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IAU FITS Working Group

The IAU FITS Working Group (IAU-FWG) is the international control authority for the FITS (Flexible Image Transport System) data format. The IAU-FWG was formed in 1988 by a formal resolution of the XXth IAU General Assembly at Baltimore to maintain the existing FITS standards and to approve future extensions to FITS. The IAU-FWG serves under Commission 5 (Documentation and Astronomical Data) which in turn serves under Division B (Facilities, Technologies, and Astronomical Data) of the International Astronomical Union.

The Flexible Image Transport System (FITS) data format was developed in the late 1970s to interchange astronomical image data. The final negotiations on its design occurred in March 1979. By 1981, the year that the specifications were published in an astronomical journal, FITS had become the de facto standard data interchange format of astronomy. This fact was recognized by the IAU, which adopted FITS as its standard data interchange and archiving format by a resolution at the Patras (1982) General Assembly.

Currently there are 23 members of the IAU-FWG, chosen to represent the interests of both ground- and space-based astronomy and the different wave-length bands which astronomers observe. Members are also chosen to provide representation for various regions of the World, major astronomical data centers, major astronomical software packages, and the historical traditions of FITS. The current chairman of the IAU-FWG (as of September 2012) is Lucio Chiappetti (IASF Milano, IT).

The IAU-FWG follows a formal approval process for any modifications to the FITS format to assure that the changes are carefully considered by the entire worldwide FITS community and that minority interests are not ignored.

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