HEC: About the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog

The Habitable Exoplanets Catalog (HEC) is an online database of potentially habitable exoplanets discoveries. It uses different habitability assessments to identify, classify, and compare exoplanets. The catalog is maintained by the Planetary Habitability Laboratory @ UPR Arecibo and is updated as new data is available.

The first confirmed exoplanets were detected in 1992 from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. These were planets around an exotic form of stars called Pulsars. Later, in 1995, the first exoplanet around a Sun-like star was discovered from the Haute-Provence Observatory. Shortly after, the first exoplanet catalog to track these discoveries was created in the Paris Observatory in Paris, France.

The first potentially habitable exoplanet (later disputed) was detected in 2010. In 2011 the HEC was created by the Planetary Habitability Laboratory @ UPR Arecibo to track these new discoveries. The study of exoplanets is very challenging and new observations might confirm or discard any of the listed exoplanets in the catalog at any time.

Graphical details of the planets in the catalog are available in the RESULTS section. More details about them are available in the DATA section.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is a Potential Habitable Exoplanet?

Potential habitable exoplanets are those extrasolar planets (planets around other stars) that have one or more conditions necessary to support any form of life, from simple life (microorganisms) to complex life (plants and animals). Millions of years ago Earth was only able to sustain microbial life, today it can also maintain plants and animals and support a more diverse biosphere. A planet that is considered potentially habitable does not mean that they are really habitable or inhabited in the common sense.

Are these exoplanets really habitable?

We are not sure and that is why it is better to call them potentially habitable exoplanets. We have very limited information about them, ussually just their size, mass, and insolation. Only in the next 10 to 20 years we might have the right technology to determine if they are really habitable or even inhabited. These are the times when habitable exoplanets are being discovered so far future generations will be able to explore them.

Are we able to travel to these exoplanets?

Not now, and maybe not for a very long time, maybe centuries into the future. Planets in our Solar System, like Venus and Mars, are relatively close to us and reachable with our current technology. Exoplanets are so far away that we can only observe and wonder now from afar. Like watching a good movie, you don't need to get in the action to really enjoy it, and learning about the possibility of life outside Earth is the THE MOVIE, and this movie is just starting.

What is the Habitable Exoplanet Catalog (HEC)?

The Habitable Exoplanets Catalog (HEC) is an online database for scientists, educators, and the general public focused on potential habitable exoplanets discoveries. The catalog uses various habitability indices and classifications to identify, rank, and compare exoplanets, including potential exomoons. The HEC is a project of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory @ University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo (phl.upr.edu).

Why another catalog of exoplanets?

Catalogs of exoplanets are getting quite large and is becoming more difficult to sort out those objects of interest for astrobiology. The HEC identifies, organize, and rank in new ways the exoplanets within these catalogs. The HEC is a project of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory @ University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo (phl.upr.edu) with the collaboration of other international scientists and groups.

When did this catalog start?

The original idea for the HEC came on September 2011 as part of our initial research on potentially habitable exoplanets. The catalog was launched on December 5, 2011 during the NASA First Kepler Science Conference. Original press release here.

How I can help?

Send questions, suggestions, or ideas to Prof. Abel MéndezYou can also donate to our projects. 


This research has made use of the NASA Exoplanet Archive, which is operated by the California Institute of Technology, under contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under the Exoplanet Exploration Program. Special thanks to James Kasting from Penn State and Antigona Segura from UNAM.

Please send any questions, additions, corrections, and suggestions to the project director Prof. Abel Méndez.
Permanent link to the HEC is http://phl.upr.edu/hec