GNU Astronomy Utilities

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5.3.1 Invoking Table

Table will read/write, select, convert, or show the information of the columns in FITS ASCII table, FITS binary table and plain text table files, see Tables. Output columns can also be determined by number or regular expression matching of column names, units, or comments. The executable name is asttable with the following general template

$ asttable [OPTION...] InputFile

One line examples:

## Get the table column information (name, data type, or units):
$ asttable bintab.fits --information

## Print columns named RA and DEC, followed by all the columns where
## the name starts with "MAG_":
$ asttable bintab.fits --column=RA --column=DEC --column=/^MAG_/

## Similar to the above, but with one call to `--column' (or `-c'),
## also sort the rows by the input's photometric redshift (`Z_PHOT')
## column. To confirm the sort, you can add `Z_PHOT' to the columns
## to print.
$ asttable bintab.fits -cRA,DEC,/^MAG_/ --sort=Z_PHOT

## Similar to the above, but only print rows that have a photometric
## redshift between 2 and 3.
$ asttable bintab.fits -cRA,DEC,/^MAG_/ --range=Z_PHOT,2:3

## Similar to above, but writes the columns to a file (with metadata)
## instead of the command-line.
$ asttable bintab.fits -cRA,DEC,/^MAG_/ --output=out.txt

## Only print the 2nd column, and the third column multiplied by 5:
$ asttable bintab.fits -c2,5 | awk '{print $1, 5*$2}'

## Only print rows with a value in the 10th column above 100000:
$ asttable bintab.fits | awk '$10>10e5 {print}'

## Sort the output columns by the third column, save output:
$ asttable bintab.fits | 'sort -nk3 > output.txt

## Subtract the first column from the second in `cat.txt' and keep the
## third and fourth columns. Feed the columns to Table to write as a
## FITS table.
$ awk '!/^#/{print $2-$1, $3, $4}' cat.txt | asttable -ocat.fits

## Convert a plain text table to a binary FITS table:
$ asttable plaintext.txt --output=table.fits --tabletype=fits-binary

Table’s input dataset can be given either as a file or from Standard input (see Standard input). In the absence of selected columns, all the input’s columns and rows will be written to the output. If any output file is explicitly requested (with --output) the output table will be written in it. When no output file is explicitly requested the output table will be written to the standard output.

If the specified output is a FITS file, the type of FITS table (binary or ASCII) will be determined from the --tabletype option. If the output is not a FITS file, it will be printed as a plain text table (with space characters between the columns). When the columns are accompanied by meta-data (like column name, units, or comments), this information will also printed in the plain text file before the table, as described in Gnuastro text table format.

For the full list of options common to all Gnuastro programs please see Common options. Options can also be stored in directory, user or system-wide configuration files to avoid repeating on the command-line, see Configuration files. Table does not follow Automatic output that is common in most Gnuastro programs, see Automatic output. Thus, in the absence of an output file, the selected columns will be printed on the command-line with no column information, ready for redirecting to other tools like AWK or sort, similar to the examples above.


Only print the column information in the specified table on the command-line and exit. Each column’s information (number, name, units, data type, and comments) will be printed as a row on the command-line. Note that the FITS standard only requires the data type (see Numeric data types), and in plain text tables, no meta-data/information is mandatory. Gnuastro has its own convention in the comments of a plain text table to store and transfer this information as described in Gnuastro text table format.

This option will take precedence over the --column option, so when it is called along with requested columns, the latter will be ignored. This can be useful if you forget the identifier of a column after you have already typed some on the command-line. You can simply add a -i and run Table to see the whole list and remember. Then you can use the shell history (with the up arrow key on the keyboard), and retrieve the last command with all the previously typed columns present, delete -i and add the identifier you had forgot.


Specify the columns to read, see Selecting table columns for a thorough explanation on how the value to this option is interpreted. There are two ways to specify multiple columns: 1) multiple calls to this option, 2) using a comma between each column specifier in one call to this option. These different solutions may be mixed in one call to Table: for example, -cRA,DEC -cMAG, or -cRA -cDEC -cMAG are both equivalent to -cRA -cDEC -cMAG. The order of the output columns will be the same order given to the option or in the configuration files (see Configuration file precedence).

This option is not mandatory, if no specific columns are requested, all the input table columns are output. When this option is called multiple times, it is possible to output one column more than once.


Add column metadata when the output is printed in the standard output. Usually the standard output is used for a fast visual check or to pipe into other program for further processing. So by default meta-data aren’t included.


Only print the output rows that have a value within the given range in the STR column (can be a name or counter). For example with --range=sn,5:20 the output’s columns will only contain rows that have a value between 5 and 20 in the sn column (not case-sensitive).

This option can be called multiple times (different ranges for different columns) in one run of the Table program. This is very useful for selecting the final rows from multiple criteria/columns.

The chosen column doesn’t have to be in the output columns. This is good when you just want to select using one column’s values, but don’t need that column anymore afterwards.

-s STR

Sort the output rows based on the values in the STR column (can be a column name or number). By default the sort is done in ascending/increasing order, to sort in a descending order, use --descending.

The chosen column doesn’t have to be in the output columns. This is good when you just want to sort using one column’s values, but don’t need that column anymore afterwards.


When called with --sort, rows will be sorted in descending order.

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