The Planetary Habitability Laboratory @ AbSciCon 2012

Post date: Apr 13, 2012 7:41:16 AM

Discussion of current and future projects of the PHL at the NASA Astrobiology Science Conference 2012

The Planetary Habitability Laboratory (PHL) is a virtual scientific and educational laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo (UPR Arecibo) focused on studies of the habitability of Earth, the Solar System, and extrasolar planets. The PHL’s main scientific activity is the development of methods to measure the potential for life of planets, but it has many other ongoing scientific and educational projects.

One important development of the PHL and other colleagues was the Earth Similarity Index (ESI). The ESI is a mathematical analysis that assesses and compares the similarity of Earth with other planets. The ESI is being used by other scientists to study the potential for life of recent exoplanet discoveries.

One of the main projects of the PHL is the Visible Paleo-Earth (VPE), a photorealistic visual reconstruction of Earth past in the last 750 million years. The VPE is being used to study the evolution of terrestrial habitability and to develop techniques to recognize habitable exoplanets by future observations. The VPE is also a good educational resource to learn about Earth's past.

This summer the VPE will also be complemented with the Visible Neo-Earth (VNE), a global view of the future Earth after continental shifts, climate changes, and the human impact. The VNE is a visual tour of Earth up to 250 million years into possible future scenarios.

The project that has attracted the most attention to the PHL is the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog (HEC), the first catalog listing and comparing the potential for life of recent exoplanet discoveries. HEC also lists and classifies all exoplanets and keeps an updated list of statistics.

This summer the PHL will release another project. The Limits of Life Database (LLD) will be the first database listing and comparing the environmental, physical, chemical and biological limits of life from microbial to complex life, up to planetary scales. The LLD will be a resource for scientists studying planetary habitability.

The creation of the PHL was inspired by the Minority Institutions Research Experiences (MIRS) program of the NASA Astrobiology Program. "My participation in the MIRS program at NASA Ames helped me to recognize some gaps in planetary habitability science, the PHL was my answer", says Abel Mendez, Director of the PHL.

You can connect with updates of the PHL projects by visiting its webpage ( or following @PlanetaryHabLab or @ProfAbelMendez on Twitter.

The PHL is managed by Abel Mendez from the Department of Physics and Chemistry with the help of José Candelaria from the Department of Mathematics, both at UPR Arecibo. Other collaborators are from NASA, the SETI Institute, and other international partners.


HEC Science Contact: Abel Mendez, PHL @ UPR Arecibo.