What’s New in Astropy 4.3?


Astropy 4.3 is a major release that adds significant new functionality since the 4.2.x series of releases.

In particular, this release includes:

In addition to these major changes, Astropy v4.3 includes a large number of smaller improvements and bug fixes, which are described in the Full Changelog. By the numbers:

  • 309 issues have been closed since v4.2

  • 145 pull requests have been merged since v4.2

  • 72 distinct people have contributed code

Transformations to AltAz are now much more precise (and faster)

Following advice from M. K. Brewer and comparisons with accurate verification samples, the implementations for the transformations to AltAz coordinates were made much more precise (down to the milli-arcsec level). To help this, the CIRS frame has gained an observer location attribute.

Furthermore, by ensuring expensive calculations of the precession-nutation matrix are only done once, the transformations have been sped up considerably.

Improvements in making Astropy thread-safe

To help use of Astropy in multi-threaded environments (e.g., with Dask), an effort has been started to make the basic infrastructure of astropy thread-safe for operations that do not explicitly change state. In particular, parsing of units and angles, and initializing leap-second tables should now be safe even when done simultaneously in multiple threads, as should any use of the lazyproperty decorator (and the lazy=True version of classproperty).

Performance improvements to sigma clipping

The performance of the sigma clipping functions in the Astrostatistics Tools (astropy.stats) module has now been significantly improved when more than a couple of iterations are required and the built-in functions for determining the central values and standard deviations are used. The performance gains are especially noticeable when using the axis keyword and different parts of the array being sigma clipped require different numbers of iterations. In these cases the performance can be 10-20x better or more.

Changes in the Time and IERS leap second handling

The Time and IERS leap second handling is changed so that the leap second table is updated only when a Time transform involving UTC is performed. Previously this update check was done the first time a Time object was created, which in practice occured when importing common astropy subpackages like astropy.coordinates. Now you can prevent querying internet resources (for instance on a cluster) by setting iers.conf.auto_download = False. This can be done after importing astropy but prior to performing any Time scale transformations related to UTC.

Support for multidimensional and object columns in ECSV

Support has been added for reading and writing Tables with three additional data subtypes:

  • Multidimensional column data (both masked and unmasked) with fixed dimensions in all table cells.

  • Multidimensional column data with variable-dimension arrays similar to FITS variable-length arrays.

  • Object-type columns with simple Python objects consisting of dict, list, str, int, float, bool and None elements.

All of these subtypes use JSON to convert each column cell to a string that is stored in the ECSV output. This astropy update corresponds to an updated version 1.0 of the ECSV standard. For details see the ECSV Format section.

Support for reading and writing tables to QDP format

The ASCII Tables (astropy.io.ascii) subpackage now supports reading and writing tables in the QDP (Quick and Dandy Plotter) format. This specialized format is used by some missions such as Swift.

Append table to existing FITS file

It is now easy to append a Table to an existing FITS file using a new append keyword:

>>> tbl.write('existing_table.fits', append=True)  

General masked class for Quantity and other ndarray subclasses

A substantial new class for handling Masked Data has been included as an experimental feature of astropy. The new Masked class allows wrapping NumPy ndarray subclasses to include a mask attribute and correctly propagate that mask through NumPy operations.

A primary driver for the Masked class is to support masked Quantity objects. This functionality is implemented and well-tested, and the next steps planned for the 5.0 release of astropy will be application to other astropy classes such as SkyCoord and full integration with Table functionality that requires masking.

We encourage use and testing of the new class in non-production code, but caution that the API may change in the next release.

Configuration file improvements

The configuration file is no longer created by default when importing astropy and its existence is no longer required. This should alleviate a number of issues associated with the previous behavior. If necessary the configuration file can be written with a new function create_config_file.

Affiliated packages should update their __init__.py module to remove the block using update_default_config and ConfigurationDefaultMissingWarning.

Support for different solvers and bracket option in z_at_value

The z_at_value convenience function now supports several solver methods, the default of which provides a new bracket parameter to pass a starting value and range to the solver.

>>> from astropy import units as u
>>> from astropy.cosmology import Planck18, z_at_value
>>> z_at_value(Planck18.angular_diameter_distance, 1500*u.Mpc, bracket=(0.6, 1.0, 1.5))  
>>> z_at_value(Planck18.angular_diameter_distance, 1500*u.Mpc, bracket=(2.0, 3.0, 3.5))  

Full change log

To see a detailed list of all changes in version v4.3, including changes in API, please see the Full Changelog.

Contributors to the v4.3 release

The people who have contributed to the code for this release are:

  • Adrian Price-Whelan

  • Albert Y. Shih

  • Andrej Rode *

  • Bhavya Khandelwal *

  • Brian Soto

  • Brigitta Sipőcz

  • Bruce Merry

  • Chiara Marmo *

  • Dan Ryan *

  • David Stansby

  • Derek Homeier

    1. Madison Bray

  • Ed Slavich

  • Eero Vaher *

  • Erik Tollerud

  • Gabriel Perren

  • Geert Barentsen

  • Gyanendra Shukla *

  • Hans Moritz Günther

  • Ilya Kamenshchikov *

  • Jakob Maljaars *

  • James Davies

  • James Tocknell *

  • James Turner

  • Jane Rigby

  • Jose Sabater *

  • Juan Luis Cano Rodríguez

  • Julien Woillez

  • Karl Wessel *

  • Larry Bradley

  • Laura Hayes *

  • Leo Singer

  • Ludwig Schwardt

  • Léni Gauffier *

  • Maik Nijhuis *

  • Marten van Kerkwijk

  • Matteo Bachetti

  • Matthias Bussonnier *

  • Maximilian Nöthe

  • Mihai Cara

  • Nadia Dencheva

  • Nathaniel Starkman

  • Nicholas Earl

  • Nick Murphy

  • Nikita Tewary *

  • Ole Streicher

  • Param Patidar *

  • Perry Greenfield

  • Pey Lian Lim

  • Pushkar Kopparla *

  • Ricardo Fonseca

  • Richard R *

  • Rik van Lieshout *

  • Sam Lee *

  • Sashank Mishra

  • Shankar Kulumani *

  • Simon Conseil

  • Steve Guest *

  • Steven Bamford

  • Stuart Littlefair

  • Stuart Mumford

  • Suyog Garg *

  • Thomas Robitaille

  • Tim Gates *

  • Tim Jenness

  • Tom Aldcroft

  • Tom Donaldson

  • William Jamieson *

  • homeboy445 *

  • maggiesam *

Where a * indicates that this release contains their first contribution to Astropy.