Tempel 1's Place in the Solar System
From a vantage point outside of Pluto's orbit and slightly above the solar system, one would have difficulty seeing the orbits of the inner planets. The orbit of Jupiter (red circle) even looks small from out here, but remember, it takes Jupiter about 12 years to go around the sun once! Just inside the orbit of Jupiter is a blueish ellipse. That is the orbit of Tempel 1.
As we zoom into position somewhere in the asteroid belt we see the orbits of the inner planets. The green grid represents the plane of the earth's orbit and all of the other planets and objects in the solar system have orbits that are slightly inclined to that plane. Mercury, Venus and Mars are inclined very slightly, but Tempel 1's orbit is clearly not in the same plane. The comet comes closest to the sun (its perihelion point) just inside the orbit of Mars (peach-colored orbit). The comet's farpoint (aphelion) is out near the orbit of Jupiter. Tempel 1's orbit does not cross the Earth's and as you can see is actually quite far away from us! The planets positions are marked for July 2005.
CREDIT: Charts generated by Gregorio Drayer.