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IAU FITS Working Group

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has played an important role in endorsing and maintaining the FITS data format for the benefit of the entire astronomical community. In 1982, just 3 years after the FITS format was created, the IAU adopted a resolution recommending that all astronomical computer facilities recognize and support FITS for the interchange of data. Then in 1988, the IAU adopted another resolution to create a FITS Working Group (IAU-FWG) to maintain the existing FITS standards and to review, approve and maintain future extensions to FITS.

Up until 2015, The IAU-FWG served under Commission 5 (Documentation and Astronomical Data) which in turn served under Division B Facilities, Technologies and Data Science of the IAU. After the 2015 reorganization of the IAU scientific bodies, the IAU-FWG has continued to function as a working group within the new Commission B2, Data and Documentation. There have been preliminary discussions about creating a new expanded "Data Representations" working group under Commission B2 that would focus on more modern alternatives to the FITS format, but as of early 2021 no firm decisions have been made. Regardless, it is widely recognized that because of the important role that the FITS format plays within the astronomical community it is vital that the IAU retains a strong FITS governance structure for the indefinite future, perhaps as a subcommittee of whatever new data working group that might be formed.

Members of the IAU-FWG are chosen to represent the interests of both ground and space-based astronomy and the different wavelength bands which astronomers observe. Members are also chosen to try to provide representation for various regions of the World, major astronomical data centers, major astronomical software packages, and the historical traditions of FITS.

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. The following links describe the structure of the IAU-FWG as of 2015. This is subject to change pending the possible reorganization of the working groups under the IAU Commission B2.

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