AUSTRALIA is investigating two objects detected by satellite that could potentially be linked to the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.
Aircraft and ships from Australia, New Zealand and the US were heading to the area, 1,550 miles south-west of Perth, to search for the objects.
Prime minister Tony Abbott announced the discovery today in parliament.
“The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has received information based on satellite information of objects possibly related to the search,” he said.
“Following specialist analysis of this satellite imagery, two possible objects related to the search have been identified.”
The objects identified were of a “reasonable size”, Amsa’s general manager John Young said. The largest object appeared to be about 24 metres in size, he said.
“The objects are relatively indistinct. The indication to me is of objects that are of a reasonable size and probably awash with water and bobbing up and down over the surface,” he said.
“This is a lead, it is probably the best lead we have right now. But we need to get there, find them, see them, assess them, to know whether it’s really meaningful or not.”
But he issued a cautionary note that the objects could also be seaborne debris along a shipping route where containers can fall off cargo vessels.
Australia has been tasked with searching in the southern Indian Ocean for the aircraft.
Mr Young said visibility was poor and may hamper efforts to find the objects. He said they “are relatively indistinct on the imagery . . . but those who are experts indicate they are credible sightings. The indication to me is of objects that are a reasonable size and probably awash with water, moving up and down over the surface.”
Military planes from Australia, the US and New Zealand have been covering a search region over the southern Indian Ocean that was narrowed down from 232,000 square miles to 117,000 square miles.
Mr Young said the depth of the ocean in the latest area, which is south from where the search had been focused on since Monday, is several thousand metres deep.
He said commercial satellites had been redirected in the hope of getting higher resolution images. He did not say when that would happen. The current images are not sharp enough to determine any markings.
The hunt for the Boeing 777 has been punctuated by several false leads since it disappeared March 8 above the Gulf of Thailand.
Oil slicks that were spotted did not contain jet fuel. A yellow object thought to be from the plane turned out to be a piece of sea trash.
Chinese satellite images showed possible plane debris, but nothing was found.
Relatives of passengers at a Beijing hotel said today they did not want to comment until there was more solid information out of Australia.
Malaysian defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters that he hopes this is “a positive development”.