Canadian astronomers have mapped out the orbit of Rosetta’s comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko through advanced computational and statistical methods and have concluded that the space rock was mostly likely in Kuiper belt before it made its way into the inner Solar System.

Researchers at Western University revealed during a presentation recently that while charting out the comet’s original path and precise orbit isn’t something that’s possibly because of the influence of Jupiter’s gravity, they have been able to map a dynamic pathway for the comet and if that pathway is followed, it leads us back to the Kuiper belt. The likely place of birth enables scientists to understand the kind of environment the comet was formed in and the material it would have been made from. Further, it also enables them to understand the impact the inner Solar System has on the comet and how it morphs over time owing to its orbit around the Sun.

Mattia Galiazzo, a postdoctoral fellow in Western’s Department of Physics & Astronomy, stated during the presentation that they worked out a dynamic pathway of Rosetta’s comet based on the information we already known about the comet’s present and its past. One key piece of information about Rosetta’s comet is that is hasn’t been around in the Solar System for a long time – at least on an astronomical time scale. Researcher revealed that it entered our inner Solar System some 10,000 years ago and prior to that it was somewhere in the Kuiper Belt.

Studies on comets have revealed that comets like the the 67P, which are known as Jupiter Family comets, have stayed in the inner solar system for 12,000 years or so, and this leads us to hypothesise that 67P is also a comet of the Jupiter Family. The majority of the Jupiter Family comets are thought to come from the Kuiper belt — a ring-shaped accumulation of comets, asteroids and other space bodies in the solar system beyond the known planets — and Galiazzo and Wiegert believe, based on initial analysis of their investigation, that this is the case for 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, as well.


Researchers show that, in transit, the comet likely spent millions of years in the scattering disk, a distant portion of the Kuiper belt, at about twice the distance of Neptune — our solar system’s most distant planet. This distant origin for 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko implies it would be made from primordial material, meaning minerals that existed in their current form since before Earth was formed.

The study showing the possible birth place of Rosetta’s comet was presented at the joint 48th annual meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) and 11th annual European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) in Pasadena, California.


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