coordinates - module for coordinate transforms

Implementation of Coords class functions for coordinate transformations

The coordinate systems supported by this module cover the most commonly used geophysical and magnetospheric systems. The naming conventions can follow the names used by the popular IRBEM library, but for inertial systems we use a more consistent, fine-grained naming convention that clarifies the different systems.

Earth-centered Inertial Systems

  • ECI2000 Earth-centered Inertial, J2000 epoch

  • ECIMOD Earth-centered Inertial, mean-of-date

  • ECITOD Earth-centered Inertial, true-of-date

  • GEI Geocentric Equatorial Inertial (IRBEM approximation of TOD)

Magnetospheric Systems

  • GSM Geocentric Solar Magnetospheric

  • GSE Geocentric Solar Ecliptic

  • SM Solar Magnetic

  • MAG Geomagnetic Coordinate System (aka CDMAG)

Earth-fixed Systems

  • GEO Geocentric geographic, aka Earth-centered Earth-fixed

  • GDZ Geodetic coordinates

By convention all systems are treated as natively Cartesian except geodetic (GDZ), which is defined in [altitude, latitude, longitude] where altitude is relative to a reference ellipsoid. Similarly, distance units are assumed to be Earth radii (Re) in all systems except GDZ, where altitude is given in km. Conversions to GDZ will output altitude in km regardless of the input distance units and conversions from GDZ will output in Re regardless of input units. In all other cases, the distance units will be preserved.

Changed in version 0.3.0.

The new CTrans backend was added, which includes support for the names ECI2000, ECIMOD, ECITOD, and CDMAG. With the exception of ECIMOD, these can be used with the existing IRBEM backend, and will be converted to their closest equivalents.

Changed in version 0.4.0.

The default backend for coordinate transformations was changed from IRBEM to the CTrans-based SpacePy backend.

Notes on differences between representations

IRBEM’s coordinate transformations are low-accuracy and were written for a library with a driving philosophy of speed and robustness as priorities. The coordinate transformations are therefore approximate. Further, most of the geophysical systems (e.g., GSE, SM) are derived from an inertial system. It is standard practice to use ECIMOD as this system. However, IRBEM does not currently make ECIMOD available as one of its inertial systems. IRBEM’s default inertial system (called GEI) is consistent with an approximation of ECITOD. Hence there will be small differences between IRBEM’s transformations and those using SpacePy’s CTrans backend. Further sources of difference include: IRBEM uses a low-order approximation to the sidereal time and other parameters; the calculation of the Earth-Sun vector differs between the representations; the definitions of an Earth radius differ (SpacePy = 6378.137km; IRBEM = 6371.2 km). SpacePy’s in-built representation is higher accuracy and is comprehensively tested, including tests for consistency with other high accuracy packages such as LANLGeoMag and AstroPy. However, for use cases where the required precision is of order 1 percent the output can be considered equivalent.

Setting options for coordinate transformation

The backend for coordinate transformations can be provided at instantiation of a Coords object using a keyword argument. However, for convenience and flexibility the options can be set at the module level. Configurable options include the backend used (irbempy or SpacePy’s ctrans) and the reference ellipsoid (only configurable for the SpacePy backend). A warning will be raised if the backend is not set (either through the defaults or the keyword argument). The final configurable option (itol) is the maximum separation, in seconds, for which the coordinate transformations will not be recalculated. To force all transformations to use an exact transform for the time, set itol to zero. Values between 10s and 60s are recommended for speed while also preserving accuracy, though different applications will require different accuracies. For example, assuming this module has been imported as spc, to set the SpacePy backend as the default and set itol to 5 seconds:

>>> spc.DEFAULTS.set_values(use_irbem=False, itol=5)

Authors: Steven Morley and Josef Koller Institution: Los ALamos National Laboratory Contact:

Copyright 2010-2016 Los Alamos National Security, LLC.


Coords(data, dtype, carsph, [units, ticks, ...)

A class holding spatial coordinates and enabling transformation between coordinate systems.



Coordinate transformation from Cartesian to spherical


Coordinate transformation from spherical to Cartesian

quaternionRotateVector(Qin, Vin[, ...])

Given quaternions and vectors, return the vectors rotated by the quaternions

quaternionNormalize(Qin[, scalarPos])

Given an input quaternion (or array of quaternions), return the unit quaternion

quaternionMultiply(Qin1, Qin2[, scalarPos])

Given quaternions, return the product, i.e. Qin1*Qin2.

quaternionConjugate(Qin[, scalarPos])

Given an input quaternion (or array of quaternions), return the conjugate

quaternionFromMatrix(matrix[, scalarPos])

Given an input rotation matrix, return the equivalent quaternion

quaternionToMatrix(Qin[, scalarPos, normalize])

Given an input quaternion, return the equivalent rotation matrix.