HEC: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

About the Catalog

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 satellites, or exomoons. 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 of interest for astrobiology. HEC identifies, organize, and rank in new ways the potential habitable exoplanets within these catalogs.

When this catalog started?
The original idea for HEC came on September 2011 as part of our research on potentially habitable exoplanets. The catalog was launched on December 5, 2005 during the NASA First Kepler Science Conference. Original press release here.

Is the catalog only about habitable exoplanets?

No. It also considers potential habitable exomoons. Statistics and analyses for all other exoplanets are included too.

Is the catalog available for free?

Yes, and it is online. However, any complementary tools such as Mobile Apps might be charged if considerable costs are associated with their development.

How I can help?

At this stage we are worrying more about the science behind the catalog. Having new data and preprints from scientists will help. Editorial reviews will be great. Later, new web/apps developers will be necessary. We have a few students working in this project too, but its development pace will depend on how many new people get involved. Send any questions, suggestions, or your ideas to Prof. Abel Méndez.

About Potential Habitable Planets

What is a Potential Habitable Exoplanet?

Potential habitable exoplanets are those extrasolar planets (planets around other stars) that might be able 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 potentially habitable does not mean that it is necessarily habited (like a cozy cave does not mean it has bears inside).

Are we able to travel to these exoplanets?

Not now, and maybe not for a very long time. Planets in our Solar System like Venus and Mars are relatively very close to us and reachable with our current technology. Exoplanets are so far-far-far-far-far-far-far-far away (and there is no space here to convey the message) that we can only observe and wonder now from our home planet. 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!

Are these exoplanets really habitable?

We have some clues but we are not sure, that is why we prefer to call them potential habitable exoplanets. More ground and space observations will be necessary to confirm any result. Only in the next 10 to 20 years we might have the right technology to determine if they are really habitable or even habited. These are the times when habitable exoplanets are being discovered so future generations will be able to explore them. Do you want to participate of this? Lucky you, you are at the time when everything started.