Coordination Action for the integration of


Solar System Infrastructures and Science

File Types

Existing File Formats

There are many different file formats used within Solar System science. The formats are suited to different types of data and have been developed and used by different communities – for example, FITS is normally used by the astrophysics community, including solar physics, and CDF is common for in-situ observations.

That there are different formats should not be an issues – virtual observatories should be able to handle this. However, we need to find ways of using them together in order to improve interoperability.

It should be remembered that in related communities there are other types of data and other formats – for example, in the geo-sciences. The desire for interoperability must therefore consider the wider picture.

Is it time for a new file format?

It is not realistic to expect everyone to switch to using the same file format – too much has been invested in existing data holding. However, it is reasonable to discuss whether we should be considering a new family of file formats for future data sets.

The problem is that existing formats were not designed for interoperability. New formats could be created that are better suited to use in science that spans disciplinary boundaries and possibly enable completely new areas of research.