There has been another satellite sighting of objects that could be debris from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
This is the fifth satellite lead In the search for wreckage, and this time the images are from Thailand.
Thailand’s Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency said today that it spotted between 200 and 300 objects on Monday.
The objects range from two to 15 metres in size and were scattered over an area of the southern Indian Ocean that measures about 420 square kilometres and is about 2,700 kilometres southwest of Perth on Australia’s west coast.
The new satellite sighting follows two from France and earlier sightings from China and Australia.
News of the Thai sighting came on a day that the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) was forced to call off its air search because of very adverse conditions. Ships have continued their search operations.
The Thai sighting was about 200 kilometres southwest of the area where 122 potential objects were spotted on March 23 by Airbus Defence and Space, based in France.
The Thai agency’s executive director, Anond Snidvongs, said he could confirm that this was a sighting of real objects, but the agency couldn’t identify them because the satellite image resolution was not high enough.
Sightings add weight to crash conclusion
This new sighting adds even more weight to the conclusion announced by Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak, on Monday that flight M370 went down in the southern Indian Ocean.
However, not a single piece of wreckage from the plane has yet been found. There have been some visual sightings of objects, but there is no evidence that they are linked to MH370 and they have not been located after the initial sighting.
The satellite images sent to the Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency by Airbus on March 25 showed potential objects spread over about 400 square kilometres about 2,500 kilometres from Perth.
Some of them were a metre long and others were as much as 23 metres in length. Some appeared to be bright, possibly indicating solid materials.
On March 23, the French authorities sent data in the form of “satellite-generated radar echoes” that indicated possible floating debris about 2,300 kilometres from Perth. France then followed up, sending images captured by camera.
China’s satellite sighting was of a floating object 22.5 metres long and 13 metres wide, spotted about 2,630 kilometres southwest of Perth.
That image was taken on March 18, two days after Australian satellite imagery showed two floating objects, one about 24 metres long and the other five metres.
New Zealand, the US, Japan, China, and South Korea are now involved in the search for wreckage. Their task is daunting and there is a race against the clock as aircraft black box flight recorders usually have a 30-day battery life.
The United States has provided high-tech resources, including a Bluefin-21, which is an autonomous underwater vehicle that can dive to about 4,500 metres and uses side-scan sonar to build up an accurate picture of the sea floor.
The US has also provided a pinger locator – a torpedo-shaped device that is towed behind a ship. The device, which is now in Perth, has sophisticated acoustic equipment that can pick up the signals from a black box at up to 6,000 metres.
It now has to be fitted onto the Australian ship Ocean Shield, which is due to dock in Perth on March 28 and is expected to arrive in the search area on April 5.
Even if the black boxes are found, only the final two hours of the cockpit conversations will be available. This means there will be no evidence of what was said in the cockpit at the time the plane disappeared. There would, however, be full flight data information.
MH370 is believed to have flown on for about seven hours after its Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) system and transponder were turned off.
The last recorded voice message from the plane was a “Goodnight, all right” message at 1.19 a.m. – 38 minutes after the plane took off from Kuala Lumpur en route for Beijing. The message is believed to have been from the co-pilot.
Military radar suggests that the plane then turned around and headed to the western side of the Malaysian peninsula.
The last satellite ping from the aircraft was received by Inmarsat at 8.11 a.m. on March 8, the day flight MH370 disappeared with 239 people on board.