Australia Thinks It May Have Found Debris From the Missing Jetliner

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 20 2014 8:51 AM

Australia Thinks It May Have Found Debris From the Missing Jetliner

479616579-this-handout-satellite-image-made-available-by-the-amsa
This handout Satellite image made available by the AMSA (Australian Maritime Safety Authority) shows a map of the areas searched between March 18 and March 20, 2014 for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370

Photo by AMSA via Getty Images

The big news from overnight in the search for MH370, via the Associated Press:

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

An Australian search and rescue official says that planes have been sent to check on two objects possibly related to the missing Malaysia Airlines flight that were spotted on satellite imagery in the Indian Ocean about 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth.
But John Young of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority cautioned Thursday against expectations that this may help solve the mystery of the plane that went missing with 239 people on board nearly two weeks ago. Young told reporters, "We have been in this business of doing search and rescue and using sat images before and they do not always turn out to be related to the search even if they look good, so we will hold our views on that until they are sited close-up."
Advertisement

"This is a lead, it's probably the best lead we have right now," Young said. One of the objects spotted was said to be 24 meters (nearly 80 feet) in length and the other 5 meters (about 15 feet) long. Both were in an area that officials described as being about a four-hour flight off Australia's southwestern coast.

The satellite images represent the first significant new lead investigators have had in days, but there is still plenty of reason for caution. This search has already contained more than its fair share of red herrings, including (most notably in this particular case) satellite images released by China in the days after the jetliner went missing that appeared to show debris floating roughly in the area the 777 disappeared from air traffic control radar. A search of that area, however, turned up nothing and investigators have since shifted their attention to the opposite side of the Malaysian peninsula and well beyond.

The new images were actually recorded four days ago—on March 16—but were somewhat lost in the shuffle given the massive scale of the area being searched. "Due to the volume of imagery being searched, and the detailed process of analysis that followed," the info wasn't brought to the attention of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority until Thursday morning local time, according to an official statement from the agency.

Australia quickly dispatched four planes to investigate the area in question—described as a 23,000 square-kilometer area about 2,500 kilometers southwest of Perth—but the search produced no debris sightings by the end of the day local time. (The fact that it's a four-hour flight out and a four-hour one back isn't making things any easier for the planes doing the sweep.) The search will begin again Friday morning, according to officials.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***

This post has been updated with additional information.

TODAY IN SLATE

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

Where Ebola Lives Between Outbreaks

Gunman Killed Inside Canadian Parliament; Soldier Shot at National Monument Dies

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Paul Farmer: Up to 90 Percent of Ebola Patients Should Survive

Is he right?

Science

“I’m Not a Scientist” Is No Excuse

Politicians brag about their ignorance while making ignorant decisions.

Politics

The Right to Run

If you can vote, you should be able to run for public office—any office.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea 

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 22 2014 2:05 PM Paul Farmer Says Up to Ninety Percent of Those Infected Should Survive Ebola. Is He Right?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 22 2014 5:54 PM May I Offer to Sharpen My Friends’ Knives? Or would that be rude?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 4:10 PM Skinny Mark Wahlberg Goes for an Oscar: The First Trailer for The Gambler
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.