French Satellite Spots Objects in Search for Malaysian Flight 370

map showing search areas for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
A map showing the area searched in the Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared from radar screens on March 8 less than an hour after departing, with 239 people onboard, from Kuala Lumpur en-route for Beijing. (Image credit: Australian Maritime Safety Authority)

A third set of images, this one from a French satellite, show potential objects floating in the southern Indian Ocean that could be linked to Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, which has been missing since March 8, when it disappeared from radar screens.

The images, clarified by the French ministry as satellite-generated radar echoes, or radar signals that give information about an object's location, do not seem to have been publicly released, though they were immediately sent to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), which is now coordinating the plane search near Perth, according to the Malaysian Ministry of Transport.

The newly spotted object or objects were floating about 1,430 miles (2,300 kilometers) from Perth, Australia, according to the Sunday Times, a Singapore news site. [Facts about Malaysia Flight 370]

Satellite images from both China and Australia have revealed floating objects that may be Flight 370 debris in the same area over the past week.

This Chinese satellite photo shows an object in the southern Indian Ocean that might be debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that disappeared with 239 people aboard in early March. This satellite photo was obtained by a Chinese Earth-observation satellite on March 18, 2014 and released by the country's State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense on March 22. (Image credit: China State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND))

The Malaysian Ministry of Transport didn't provide any other details about the French image or images or the object's location, the New York Times reported.

Even so, the image or images may solidify the idea that the plane fell into the ocean off Western Australia, after radically departing from its route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, according to the Times.

The new image will also be compared with the past images of possible debris. The March 16 Australian satellite images of possible debris, which were released on March 20, showed two objects possibly related to the missing Malaysian aircraft, according to the AMSA. The objects (marked by arrows in the satellite images) measure up to 79 feet (24 meters) long and 16 feet (5 m) long, respectively, according to a Reuters report. (Searches in the area have yet to turn up the floating objects.)

The more recent Chinese satellite photo was captured by one of China's Earth-observation satellites on Tuesday (March 18) and released Saturday (March 22) by China's State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND). The image showed a large object — about 72 feet (22 m) by 43 feet (13 m) — some 75 miles (120 km) southwest of the location of the possible debris sighted by the Australian satellite, according to SASTIND officials. (The AMSA plotted the object and though its location fell within Saturday's search area it was not sighted, the AMSA reported.)

The new French satellite photo is the latest clue in the ongoing search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, a Boeing 777 jet; the search effort has focused on two vast swaths of ocean, one stretching north from Malaysia toward Kazakhstan in Central Asia, and another stretching south across the Indian Ocean.

Today's search involved eight aircraft, including a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon, along with the Royal Navy's HMAS Success, covering an area of nearly 23,000 square miles (59,000 square km) across two search regions within the Australia Search and Rescue Region in the southern Indian Ocean southwest of Perth.

The search will continue Monday, with the Chinese military Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft and Japanese P-3C aircraft expected to join the effort, according to the AMSA.

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Jeanna Bryner
Live Science Editor-in-Chief

Jeanna served as editor-in-chief of Live Science. Previously, she was an assistant editor at Scholastic's Science World magazine. Jeanna has an English degree from Salisbury University, a master's degree in biogeochemistry and environmental sciences from the University of Maryland, and a graduate science journalism degree from New York University. She has worked as a biologist in Florida, where she monitored wetlands and did field surveys for endangered species. She also received an ocean sciences journalism fellowship from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.