Thursday, April 21, 2011

Planetary Habitability Laboratory


Hey, is everybody ready for all the Earth Day festivities tomorrow?

Since the end of January, I’ve been following the attention-grabbing twitter feed of Professor Abel Méndez @ProfAbelMendez. As the Director of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory (PHL) in the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, he keeps all his followers up to date on interesting articles about all things astrobiology.

Professor Abel Méndez
The big star in his cosmos is his Visual Paleo-Earth Project, or VPE, which was motivated by his study of the light curves of extra-solar planets. Together with many of his students, they interpret terrestrial models (from long past eras, all the way up to present-day climate scenarios) and use NASA Blue Marble - Next Generation to create images and animations.

Under the Department of Physics & Chemistry, the new PHL is under development as a "virtual facility" which serves to study the Earth, our solar system and exoplanets, hoping to characterize basic tenets of what constitutes "habitability."

We fellow Kepler-heads keep close watch on such projects, eagerly seeking information on the ramifications of findings in the studied star fields, and the important questions about habitability: How does it begin? Does it only happen when certain conditions are met, or can it arise under different conditions? What does it look like in various stages of evolution on different planets?

Big Blue MarbleThe "blue marble" image is currently the most
detailed true-color image of the entire Earth.

Watch their tweets and PHL / VPE web pages on Earth day tomorrow, when they will present their Visible Paleo-Earth (VPE) "photorealistic visualizations" of planet Earth, as seen from space during the past 750 million years! Waiting with great anticipation for their releases in the morning! Study up, because there will be a quiz later...