Miscellaneous: HDF5, YAML, ASDF, pickle (astropy.io.misc)

The astropy.io.misc module contains miscellaneous input/output routines that do not fit elsewhere, and are often used by other astropy sub-packages. For example, astropy.io.misc.hdf5 contains functions to read/write Table objects from/to HDF5 files, but these should not be imported directly by users. Instead, users can access this functionality via the Table class itself (see Unified File Read/Write Interface). Routines that are intended to be used directly by users are listed in the astropy.io.misc section.

astropy.io.misc Package

This package contains miscellaneous utility functions for data input/output with astropy.


fnpickle(object, fileorname[, protocol, append])

Pickle an object to a specified file.

fnunpickle(fileorname[, number])

Unpickle pickled objects from a specified file and return the contents.

astropy.io.misc.hdf5 Module

This package contains functions for reading and writing HDF5 tables that are not meant to be used directly, but instead are available as readers/writers in astropy.table. See Unified File Read/Write Interface for more details.


read_table_hdf5(input[, path, …])

Read a Table object from an HDF5 file

write_table_hdf5(table, output[, path, …])

Write a Table object to an HDF5 file

astropy.io.misc.yaml Module

This module contains functions for serializing core astropy objects via the YAML protocol.

It provides functions dump, load, and load_all which call the corresponding functions in PyYaml but use the AstropyDumper and AstropyLoader classes to define custom YAML tags for the following astropy classes:


This module requires PyYaml version 3.12 or later.


>>> from astropy.io.misc import yaml
>>> import astropy.units as u
>>> from astropy.time import Time
>>> from astropy.coordinates import EarthLocation

>>> t = Time(2457389.0, format='mjd',
...          location=EarthLocation(1000, 2000, 3000, unit=u.km))
>>> td = yaml.dump(t)

>>> print(td)
format: mjd
in_subfmt: '*'
jd1: 4857390.0
jd2: -0.5
location: !astropy.coordinates.earth.EarthLocation
  ellipsoid: WGS84
  x: !astropy.units.Quantity
    unit: &id001 !astropy.units.Unit {unit: km}
    value: 1000.0
  y: !astropy.units.Quantity
    unit: *id001
    value: 2000.0
  z: !astropy.units.Quantity
    unit: *id001
    value: 3000.0
out_subfmt: '*'
precision: 3
scale: utc

>>> ty = yaml.load(td)
>>> ty
<Time object: scale='utc' format='mjd' value=2457389.0>

>>> ty.location  
<EarthLocation (1000., 2000., 3000.) km>



Parse the first YAML document in a stream using the AstropyLoader and produce the corresponding Python object.


Parse the all YAML documents in a stream using the AstropyLoader class and produce the corresponding Python object.

dump(data[, stream])

Serialize a Python object into a YAML stream using the AstropyDumper class.



Custom SafeLoader that constructs astropy core objects as well as Python tuple and unicode objects.

AstropyDumper(stream[, default_style, …])

Custom SafeDumper that represents astropy core objects as well as Python tuple and unicode objects.

Class Inheritance Diagram

Inheritance diagram of astropy.io.misc.yaml.AstropyLoader, astropy.io.misc.yaml.AstropyDumper

astropy.io.misc.asdf Package

The asdf sub-package contains code that is used to serialize astropy types so that they can be represented and stored using the Advanced Scientific Data Format (ASDF).

If both asdf and astropy are installed, no further configuration is required in order to process ASDF files that contain astropy types. The asdf package has been designed to automatically detect the presence of the tags defined by astropy.

For convenience, users can write Table objects to ASDF files using the Unified File Read/Write Interface. See Using ASDF With Table I/O below.

Documentation on the ASDF Standard can be found here. Documentation on the ASDF Python module can be found here. Additional details for Astropy developers can be found in Details.

Using ASDF With Table I/O

ASDF provides readers and writers for Table using the Unified File Read/Write Interface. This makes it convenient to read and write ASDF files with Table data.

Basic Usage

Given a table, it is possible to write it out to an ASDF file:

from astropy.table import Table

# Create a simple table
t = Table(dtype=[('a', 'f4'), ('b', 'i4'), ('c', 'S2')])
# Write the table to an ASDF file

The I/O registry automatically selects the appropriate writer function to use based on the .asdf extension of the output file.

Reading a file generated in this way is also possible using read:

t2 = Table.read('table.asdf')

The I/O registry automatically selects the appropriate reader function based on the extension of the input file.

In the case of both reading and writing, if the file extension is not .asdf it is possible to explicitly specify the reader/writer function to be used:

t3 = Table.read('table.zxcv', format='asdf')

Advanced Usage

The fundamental ASDF data structure is the tree, which is a nested combination of basic data structures (see this for a more detailed description). At the top level, the tree is a dict.

The consequence of this is that a Table object (or any object, for that matter) can be stored at any arbitrary location within an ASDF tree. The basic writer use case described above stores the given Table at the top of the tree using a default key. The basic reader case assumes that a Table is stored in the same place.

However, it may sometimes be useful for users to specify a different top-level key to be used for storage and retrieval of a Table from an ASDF file. For this reason, the ASDF I/O interface provides data_key as an optional keyword when writing and reading:

from astropy.table import Table

t = Table(dtype=[('a', 'f4'), ('b', 'i4'), ('c', 'S2')])
# Write the table to an ASDF file using a non-default key
t.write('foo.asdf', data_key='foo')

A Table stored using a custom data key can be retrieved by passing the same argument to read:

foo = Table.read('foo.asdf', data_key='foo')

The data_key option only applies to Table objects that are stored at the top of the ASDF tree. For full generality, users may pass a callback when writing or reading ASDF files to define precisely where the Table object should be placed in the tree. The option for the write case is make_tree. The function callback should accept exactly one argument, which is the Table object, and should return a dict representing the tree to be stored:

def make_custom_tree(table):
    # Return a nested tree where the table is stored at the second level
    return dict(foo=dict(bar=table))

t = Table(dtype=[('a', 'f4'), ('b', 'i4'), ('c', 'S2')])
# Write the table to an ASDF file using a non-default key
t.write('foobar.asdf', make_tree=make_custom_tree)

Similarly, when reading an ASDF file, the user can pass a custom callback to locate the table within the ASDF tree. The option in this case is find_table. The callback should accept exactly one argument, which is an dict representing the ASDF tree, and it should return a Table object:

def find_table(tree):
    # This returns the Table that was stored by the example above
    return tree['foo']['bar']

foo = Table.read('foobar.asdf', find_table=find_table)


The asdf sub-package defines classes, referred to as tags, that implement the logic for serialization and deserialization of astropy types. Users should never need to refer to tag implementations directly. Their presence should be entirely transparent when processing ASDF files.

ASDF makes use of abstract data type definitions called schemas. The tag classes provided here are specific implementations of particular schemas. Some of the tags in astropy (e.g., those related to transforms) implement schemas that are defined by the ASDF Standard. In other cases, both the tags and schemas are defined within astropy (e.g., those related to many of the coordinate frames). Documentation of the individual schemas defined by astropy can be found below in the Schemas section.

Not all astropy types are currently serializable by ASDF. Attempting to write unsupported types to an ASDF file will lead to a RepresenterError. In order to support new types, new tags and schemas must be created. See Writing ASDF Extensions for additional details.


Documentation for each of the individual ASDF schemas defined by astropy can be found below.