New Horizons probe: E2V Pluto sensor team's 'relief'

Pluto sensor Image copyright BBC Laurence Cawley
Image caption Dr Paul Jerram, of E2V, with an example of the technology on board the New Horizons Probe

An engineer involved in the sensors for the space probe launched to study Pluto has told of the "nervous" wait for the first images to come back.

Essex-based E2V created the imaging detectors used on the New Horizons probe in its historic flyby.

Chief engineer David Morris said the firm's two detectors would send back both colour and black and white images.

He said: "It will continue taking more images for the next couple of weeks, looking back at Pluto as it recedes."

One of the images to come back has shown an area of icy mountains on Pluto.

"These were completely unexpected for Pluto, which was why you heard all the 'oohs and ahhs' in the background from NASA.

"It was anticipated it would be icy, it was anticipated that it would be quite smooth with some craters but the formation of what are mountains was quite unexpected."

Image caption The pictures of Pluto's surface show evidence of active geology and mountains comparable to the Rockies

He said: "There was a certain nervousness that it could all have been for nothing.

"Getting the timing right and the image timing right was going to be crucial. It worked. I was excited and, of course, quite relieved. And very proud."

The team has had a 10-year wait to the see the results of their efforts.

Dr Paul Jerram, chief image sensor engineer at E2V, said: "To see that they have worked after their nine-and-a-half-year journey and have produced images that are way beyond anybody's expectations is amazing."

Mike Culley, of Southend Planitarium, said: "Pluto has been this distant tiny little dot and we've now got these incredible pictures.

"It has turned from a blob into a real world."

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