comet landing
The comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as it would be seen by the human eye ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

The top 10 physics breakthroughs of the year have been announced, with the ESA comet landing gaining the top spot.

Announced by Physics World, the shortlist included work in areas including nuclear physics and nanotechnology.

However the Rosetta mission, which saw Philae land on the comet's surface, was the most historic achievement, the magazine said.

Hamish Johnston, editor of, said: "By landing the Philae probe on a distant comet, the Rosetta team has begun a new chapter in our understanding of how the solar system formed and evolved - and ultimately how life was able to emerge on Earth.

"As well as looking forward to the fascinating science that will be forthcoming from Rosetta scientists, we also acknowledge the technological tour de force of chasing a comet for 10 years and then placing an advanced laboratory on its surface."

The achievement, on 12 November, was the culmination of a decade's work. The lander was released from Rosetta and made a several hour descent to the speeding comet. Scientists confirmed a successful mission at 15.35 GMT.

Although the lander bounced off the surface and ended up far from the planned site, and its battery died after a few days, the lander still provided huge amounts of information about the comet.

This included the revelation that water vapour on the comet is significantly different to that found on Earth, fuelling the debate over where our planet's oceans come from.

As well as the comet landing, nine other breakthroughs were recognised, including a peek inside the cosmic web and the ability to store data in magnetic holograms.

Johnston said: "In what was an exciting year for the field of physics, we commend the work of the nine runners-up, each of which represents an important step forward made by a team of creative and talented researchers. Our congratulations are extended to all of those involved."

The announcement comes as the ESA released an image of the comet as it would have been seen by the human eye.

"As it turns out, 67P/C-G looks dark grey, in reality almost as black as coal," says the instrument's principal investigator Holger Sierks from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research.