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Scientists Now Know Where Comet 67P Was Born

Scientists Now Know Where Comet 67P Was Born

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First Posted: Oct 19, 2016 05:54 AM EDT
ESA Attempts To Land Probe On Comet
In this November 10, 2014 handout photo illustration provided by the European Space Agency (ESA) the Rosetta probe (L) and Philae lander are pictured above the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet.
(Photo : ESA / Getty Images)

Studying comets allows scientists and researchers learn various facts about the initial moments of the Solar System. Hence, having accurate and reliable knowledge about their history becomes very important.

A research team from Western University, Canada used statistical analysis along with scientific computing to work out the history of origin of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko or Rosetta's comet. According to IFL Science, their model showed that just 10,000 years ago the comet landed itself into its current location, i.e., an eccentric orbit between Jupiter and Earth. It was present in the Kuiper Belt lying beyond the orbit of Neptune before moving to the present location. Around 400,000 years ago, the comet's orbit might have taken it beyond Pluto.

This discovery indicates that 67P is a part of a group known as the Jupiter-family comets that are highly influenced by the gas giant. These findings and results were presented before the public at the 11th annual European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) in Pasadena, California and joint 48th annual meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS).

"These results come from computations of the comet's orbit from the present to the past, which is computationally difficult due to the chaosity of the orbit caused by close encounters with Jupiter," said Mattia Galiazzo in a statement. He added further that the details are obscure but a dynamical pathway from Comet 67P's current location to the Kuiper Belt can be established.

The Kuiper Belt is that region of the Solar System that extends from the Neptune orbit towards outer side. The belt is full of comets, asteroids, and many dwarf planets such as Pluto. A majority of the small objects in this belt have remained unchanged since the birth of the Solar System.

This makes the findings very fascinating. Galiazzo and Paul Wiegert, his collaborator, believe that comet 67P is made up of the primordial material that has made up all the planets. Comet 67P is just a recent arrival in the inner Solar System. Before that, the comet must have spent millions of years in the scattering disk, a far-away portion of the Kuiper Belt.

At a certain point, the comet's path brought it closer to Jupiter, which started controlling 67P's orbit and trapped it on its current location. 

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