Satellite Images Show Floating Objects in Indian Ocean

By Tom Yulsman | March 20, 2014 11:26 am
Objects MH370

Satellite images released by the Australian government show possible objects floating in the Indian Ocean that could be wreckage from Malaysian Airlines flight 370. The images are of the same object. One is panchromatic, meaning it is based on all wavelengths of light falling on each pixel. The other is multispectral, meaning it is based on specific wavelengths. (Source: Australian Maritime Safety Authority)

Could floating objects seen in satellite images of the Indian Ocean off the coast of Australia be wreckage from the missing Malaysian Airlines jet that disappeared on March 8?

The Australian government thought the satellite images above, and another pair lower down in this post, warranted a search by aircraft. But the first try has turned up nothing — because of limited visibility due to clouds and rain, as this Tweet from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority states:

Here’s a map of the area in the Indian Ocean that was searched by the Australians today:

MH370 search area

Source: Australian Maritime Safety Authority

And here’s what that area of the Indian Ocean looked like to NASA’s Aqua satellite today:

Floating objects

Extensive cloudiness obscures parts of the Indian Ocean off the west coast of Australia, as seen in this image based on data from NASA’s Aqua satellite. (Source: NASA)

To my eye it appears that the area being searched is underneath that big patch of cloudiness seen this image. Let’s hope it clears.

Lastly, another pair of images showing another a second possible object:

Floating objects

Source: Australian Maritime Safety Authority

As more remote sensing and other kinds of imagery come in, I’ll post them here at ImaGeo. So stay tuned.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Remote Sensing, select, Top Posts
  • Uncle Al

    It looks like a 40 ft shipping container fallen off a super-Panamax container ship. They tend to float just above or below the surface, creating serious, possibly lethal, hazards to commerce until they sink.

    • Tom Yulsman

      It could be. But the location along one of the arcs identified by the satellite data suggest it could also be debris from the aircraft. Let’s just hope they can figure it out and put the mystery to rest.

  • Pat Bradshaw

    Thank you



ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.


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