A Soviet space probe beaming live pictures to a Moscow space center swept past Halley's comet yesterday, giving scientists from around the world what they believe is their first view ever of a comet's icy core. The unmanned Vega 1 craft, launched under a project involving the Soviet Union, Austria, France, West Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, and Poland, flew through the gas-and-dust outer layer of the comet, the official news agency Tass said.
Vega 1 took the color pictures at a distance of 93.8 million miles from Earth while traveling at 50 miles a second.
The craft, the first probe close enough to conduct detailed research, also measured the comet's temperatures, examined its physical and chemical properties, and analyzed electromagnetic fields around the comet.
A sister craft, Vega 2, is due to fly even closer to the comet's nucleus Sunday, and the European Giotto craft will approach within 310 miles of the comet March 13.
Halley's comet passes near Earth only once every 76 years.