The Planetary Habitability Laboratory (PHL) is a research and educational virtual laboratory dedicated to studies of the habitability of Earth, the Solar System, and exoplanets. Its main goal is to map the habitable universe. The main scientific activity of the PHL is the development and implementation of methods to measure the potential for life of planets.

The most notable projects of the PHL are the Visible Paleo-Earth (VPE), a photorealistic visual reconstruction of Earth past in the last 750 million years, and the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog (HEC), a listing and comparison of potentially habitable exoplanets.

The PHL is directed by Prof. Abel Méndez from the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo with the international collaboration of scientists from NASA, Penn State, Washington State, SETI Institute, and many other institutions. The PHL is a spinoff of the MIRS Program of the NASA Astrobiology Institute.

Contact Information

Prof. Abel Méndez, Director
Planetary Habitability Laboratory
University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo


Abel Méndez
Principal Investigator, Director
UPR Arecibo
 Edwin Alfonso-Sosa
Ocean Physics Education, Inc.
Glorymill Santiago-Labrador
Integrated Science Multi-use Laboratory
Luisa F. Zambrano-Marín
Space Port Puerto Rico
Guillermo Nery
UPR Arecibo

Science Collaborators

Chris McKay
NASA Ames Research Center
 Alfonso F. Davila
SETI Institute
Alberto G. Fairén
Cornell University
Dirk Schulze-Makuch
Washington State University
Tori Hoehler
NASA Ames Research Center
James Kasting
Penn State
Antígona Segura
Victoria Meadows
University of Washington
Matthew Schrenk
East Carolina University
Axel Hagermann
Open University
Charles S. Cockell
Open University
Werner von Bloh
Potsdam Institute for Climate Research
Ronald Clyde Blakey
Northern Arizona University
Marina António
Washington State University
Jacob Haqq-Misra
Blue Marble Space Institute
Ravi Kumar Kopparapu
Penn State
Ramses Ramírez
Penn State
Jacek Wierzchos
Jesús Martínez-Frías
René Heller
McMaster University
Shawn D. Domagal-Goldman
NASA Goddard
David Catling
University of Washington
Rory Barnes
University of Washington
Philip Muirhead
Andrew Rushby
University of East Anglia
Jonathan Lunine
Cornell University
Siegfried Franck
PIK (In Memoriam 1952-2011)
Howard Relles
Fernando Gilbes
UPR Mayagüez
Mei Yu
UPR Río Piedras

Technical Collaborators

Tony B. Tubsturtle
Damian Peach
[astro images]
Jim Cornmell
[astro maps]
Robert Brenner

Current Research Students

Previous Research Students

José M. Vélez Carlos A. Salamanca Alexander Ortiz Samira Sulieman
Jéssica Arana Juan Méndez José A. Rodríguez Dhara I. Ojeda
Héctor A. Santiago Leslie Orama Tania Bonilla Lizbeth Romero
Víctor Escribano Gustavo González Luis A. Carpio Michelle M. Barreto
Noel Gómez Magdalena Rodríguez Jezenia Carrero Alex Lugo
Jasmine Seda Ludalis Z. Fontán María I. Díaz Beverly E. Robledo
Pedro Vázquez Yanitza Otero Jennifer Cintrón Wilfredo Pérez
Sophy A. Jimenez Zuleyka González Daniel Vélez Germaine Torres
Waldemar Maldonado Melisa Amenabar Karla Bracero Nathalie Albaladejo
Karla E. Hernández Valeria E. Santiago María E. Ramírez Katia D. López
Admarie Alicea Noemí J. Pérez Norberto J. González Nahiomy Arroyo
José Padilla  Betzaida Aponte Rodolfo A. Castillo   Francys J. Heredia

Current and Previous Sponsors

University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo University of Puerto Rico
NASA Astrobiology Institute NASA Minority Institute Research Program
High Performance Computing Facility Puerto Rico NASA Space Grant
Integrated Science Multi-use Laboratory Puerto Rico LSAMP

The computational resources of the PHL are partially supported by the High Performance Computing Facility (HPCf), the University of Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico INBRE grant P20 RR-016470 from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH); and the Institute for Functional Nanomaterials (IFN) award 0701525 from the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program of the National Science Foundation (NSF).


 2010 Apr 26 The PHL was launched at the NASA Astrobiology Science Conference 2010 in League City, Texas.
 2011 Apr 22 First scientific photorealistic visualizations of Earth in the last 750 million years, the Visible Paleo-Earth (VPE).
 2011 Sep 15 A new software tool to visualize exoplanets, the Scientific Exoplanet Renderer (SER).
 2011 Nov 21 First measure of Earth-likeness for exoplanets, the Earth Similarity Index (ESI).
 2011 Dec 5 First database of potentially habitable exoplanets, the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog (HEC).
 2012 Aug 5 The PHL is selected as one of the Best of the Web resources on space and search for alien life by the Teacher Network of the The Guardian.
 2013 Feb 18 New project: the Search for Potentially Habitable Exoworlds Resembling Earth (SPHERE).

The PHL is also present on

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