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Next: Units Up: Primary Header Previous: Reserved Keywords Some Hints on Keyword Usage

While only the keywords listed in and are formally reserved by the rules of FITS, standard meanings for others may be adopted by general agreement. Section 4 discusses a number of such keywords. Conventions for keyword meanings can also be developed within a given discipline, as has been done for high energy astrophysics, radio interferometry, and single dish radio observations. Some of these conventions are discussed in section 5. Keywords should not be used in a way that conflicts with a generally accepted convention. If the convention applies to all FITS files, avoid using the keyword with a meaning other than that of the convention; if the convention is discipline-specific, say, to high energy astrophysics or radio astronomy, a different meaning may apply to a different discipline. Keyword meanings in conflict with widely accepted usage may confuse readers.

For keywords that have no value or are used to transfer text, such as HISTORY, COMMENT, and REFERENCE, the same keyword may be used repeatedly to extend text over a sequence of card images. However, repetition of a keyword with conflicting values may cause confusion. There is no standard interpretation in such a case determining which value is to be retained as the true value of the keyword. Different FITS readers may interpret the header differently. Do not repeat a keyword on different card images if the values conflict.

The comment field following the keyword and value provides an opportunity to explain the meanings. Such comments should supply additional information. Some FITS writers automatically generate comments such as ``Physical coordinate of axis'' following a CTYPEn keyword or ``Physical units of matrix'' following a BUNIT keyword. Such comments provide no more information than has been given by the FITS rules and are not very helpful for the human reader. Comments should provide information not available from the FITS syntax, for example, what the axis is (right ascension? declination? frequency?) or the units of the values in the primary data array (Janskys/beam? magnitudes/arcsec$^{\rm 2}$?). The number of characters in a string value is often limited to accommodate reading software, resulting in abbreviations; the comment field can and should be used to explain these abbreviations in full. While the meaning of an abbreviation may be obvious at the writing installation, it may not be so clear to a reader.

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Next: Units Up: Primary Header Previous: Reserved Keywords