Objects possibly linked to missing plane found

11:11, Mar 20 2014
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Satellite photos from March 20 show the objects "possibly associated" with the search for the missing plane. The images were released hours after Australia announced it had "credible" leads in the search for flight MH370.
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Satellite photos from March 20 show the objects "possibly associated" with the search for the missing plane. The images were released hours after Australia announced it had "credible" leads in the search for flight MH370.
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Australia officials say they still have no clear indication if the objects are the missing plane.
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Updated search area charts for Friday's operation from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

An international force of surveillance planes and ships has converged in a remote spot in the Indian Ocean to investigate what Australian satellite experts say are ‘‘credible’’ images of pieces of the missing MH370 plane.

Nearly two weeks after the Malaysian Airlines flight disappeared, Australian authorities were describing as their ‘‘best lead’’ the grainy satellite images of two objects about 2500 kilometres southwest of Perth.

But senior sources were urging caution late on Thursday night, as the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is co-ordinating the search, said the first Australian plane on the scene had failed to find anything.

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Journalists attempt to interview a woman who is the relative of a passenger on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, as she crouches on the floor crying, at the Beijing Capital International Airport.
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A relative of a passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries, surrounded by journalists, at the Beijing Capital International Airport on March 8, 2014.
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The Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew lost contact with air traffic controllers early on Saturday en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, the airline said in a statement.
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An aerial view of an oil spill is seen from a Vietnamese Air Force aircraft in the search area for a missing Malaysia Airlines plane, 250 km from Vietnam and 190 km from Malaysia, in this handout photo from Thanh Nien Newpaper taken on March 8.
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A spokesman (centre) of Malaysia Airlines is surrounded by journalists as he gives a briefing about Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, at a hotel in Beijing March 8, 2014.
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A relative (front) of a passenger of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries as she walks past journalists at a hotel in Beijing March 9, 2014. The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER aircraft carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew was presumed to have crashed off the Vietnamese coast on Saturday.
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Malaysia Airlines Commercial Director Hugh Dunleavy (centre) speaks to journalists about information of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
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Vietnamese Air Force officers sit in the cockpit of a search and rescue aircraft as they fly over the search area for a missing Malaysia Airlines plane.
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Volunteer rescue workers and religious organisations pray during multi-religion mass prayers for the passengers of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang.
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A view of oil slicks (pale line near the bottom right) spotted in an area of the South China Sea about 100 nautical miles (185 km) from Tok Bali Beach in Malaysia's Kelantan state.
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Admiral Datuk Mohd Amdan Kurish, Director General of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, looks at a radar screen while searching for a missing Malaysia Airlines plane in the South China Sea.
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A relative (left) of a passenger of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is escorted by a caregiver from Malaysia Airlines as they walk in a corridor at a hotel in Beijing.
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Indian sand artist Sudarshan Patnaik applies the final touches to a sand art sculpture he created wishing for the well being of the passengers of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, on a beach in Puri, in the eastern Indian state of Odisha.
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Life vests and lifesavers are seen onboard a Vietnam Air Force search and rescue aircraft on a mission to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, off Tho Chu island.
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Journalists place their recorders as they get ready for the first briefing of the day at a news conference at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on March 10.
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Relatives of a passenger onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cry inside a hotel they are staying, in Putrajaya. China has urged Malaysia to step up the search for the jetliner that went missing with 239 people on board, about two-thirds of them Chinese, and said it has sent security agents to help with an investigation into the misuse of passports.
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An officer looks out of a helicopter during a mission to find the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that disappeared from radar screens in the early hours of Saturday, near Tho Chu Island.
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A map of a flight plan is seen on a computer screen during a meeting before a mission to find the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that disappeared from radar screens in the early hours of Saturday, at Phu Quoc Airport.
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A woman stands in front of a giant screen showing the number hours since Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 went missing, in Beijing on March 10.
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A family member of a passenger from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 waits for news at Lido Hotel on March 10, in Beijing, China. Investigative teams continue to search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 and the 293 passengers that were travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
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Dato' Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director general of the Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation briefs the media over latest updates on missing Malaysia Airline MH370 on March 10, in Kuala Lumpur.
Vietnam Air Force plane
Clouds hover outside the window of a Vietnam Air Force search and rescue aircraft An-26 on a mission to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, off Vietnam's Tho Chu island.
Family Malaysian Airlines flight
People believed to be relatives of passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 are escorted to the VIP section of the Beijing Capital International Airport prior to flying to Kuala Lumpur.
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A Chinese relative of a passenger of Malaysia Airlines MH370 is comforted by a staff member of the airport as she shields her face from journalists at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
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A combination photo shows two men whom police said were travelling on stolen passports onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane.
Military personnel look out of a Singapore Air Force plane during the search
Military personnel look out of a Singapore Air Force plane during the search.
General Khalid Abu Bakar
Malaysia's police chief, Inspector General Khalid Abu Bakar, addresses a news conference.
Zhuji, China
Students from an international school in east China city Zhuji pray for the passengers onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
Flight MH370 relatives
LOOKING FOR ANSWERS: Family members of missing passengers leave a meeting in a Beijing Hotel.
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MESSAGE OF HOPE: A Vietnamese tourist writes a message of hope for missing passengers and crew.
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MESSAGES FOR THE MISSING: Tying a message of hope on a message board for passengers and crew.
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A relative of a passenger aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 answers media questions at Lido Hotel.
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A charity worker comforts an emotional relative of a passenger.
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Indian sand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik works on a sand sculpture of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, at golden beach at Puri in the eastern Indian state of Odisha.
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Satellite images reveal a possible crash site for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, where three large objects were seen in the water.
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An object sits in the water in satellite imagery released by China.
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The zone where the mystery objects were found.
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What appears to be fuel sits on the water in the area where three large objects were found.
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A crew member from the Royal Malaysian Air Force looks through the window of a Malaysian Air Force CN235 aircraft during a Search and Rescue operation to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
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The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Kidd and USS Pinckney are seen en transit in the Pacific Ocean in this US Navy picture taken May 18, 2011. Kidd and Pinkney have been searching for the missing Malaysian airliner and are being re-deployed to the Strait of Malacca off Malaysia's west coast as new search areas are opened in the Indian Ocean.
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Students watch as a group of artists put the finishing touches to a three dimensional artwork at a school in Makati city, metro Manila. According to the artists, the artwork is their way of expressing sympathy towards the relatives of passengers onboard the missing Boeing 777-200ER.
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Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein shows two maps with corridors of the last known possible location of the missing plane.
Selamat Omar shows a picture of his son, flight engineer Mohd Khairul Amri Selamat
Selamat Omar shows a picture of his son, flight engineer Mohd Khairul Amri Selamat who was onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
Chinese relatives of the missing passengers
Chinese relatives of the missing passengers who were travelling onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 watch a television displaying a Malaysian press conference at Lido Hotel in Beijing.
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A family member of a passenger onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries as he watches a message board dedicated to passengers.
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Satellite photos from March 20 show the objects "possibly associated" with the search for the missing plane. The images were released hours after Australia announced it had "credible" leads in the search for flight MH370.
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Satellite photos from March 20 show the objects "possibly associated" with the search for the missing plane. The images were released hours after Australia announced it had "credible" leads in the search for flight MH370.
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A still image taken from video shows an image of an object spotted in the southern Indian Ocean by the Gaofen-1 high-resolution optical Earth observation satellite of CNSA.
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Pilot Dave Smith (R) gives a pre-flight briefing aboard a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft before taking off to search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, at RAAF base Pearce near Perth, March 22, 2014.
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Family members of passengers onboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 raise their fists as they shout "return our families" to protest against the lack of new information after a routine briefing given by Malaysia's government and military representatives at Lido Hotel in Beijing March 22, 2014.
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Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein holds up a note that he has just received on a new lead in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, during a news conference at Kuala Lumpur International Airport March 22, 2014.
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Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak (bottom C) takes part in a special prayer for passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 at the Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin mosque in Putrajaya March 21, 2014.
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A woman writes on a banner of well wishes for the passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport March 14, 2014.
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A family member of a passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 covers her face as she cries after a routine briefing given by Malaysia Airlines at Lido Hotel in Beijing, March 22, 2014.
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A girl reads some of the messages of hope and support for the passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 at a mall outside Kuala Lumpur March 22, 2014.
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A crew member aboard a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) AP-3C Orion uses binoculars as it flies over the southern Indian Ocean during the search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 March 22, 2014.
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A woman writes another message of hope and support for the passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 at a mall outside Kuala Lumpur March 22, 2014.
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Map of the southern Indian Ocean locating site where a satellite may have found debris related to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370; includes satellite images of possible debris. MCT
Search for MH370
Solid matter is pictured floating in the southern Indian Ocean seen from a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft searching for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.
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INDIAN OCEAN - This handout Satellite image made available by the AMSA (Australian Maritime Safety Authority) shows a map of the planned search area for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 on March 24, 2014.
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Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein holds satellite images as he speaks about the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on March 26.
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A satellite photo, showing the locations and co-ordinates of unknown objects reported by the Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency (MRSA) in the Indian Ocean. The images were taken on March 23 and released on March 26.
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A satellite photo, showing the location of unknown objects reported by the Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency (MRSA) in the Indian Ocean. The images were taken on March 23 and released on March 26.

One source familiar with the operation said there was unlikely to be definitive news until the Navy supply ship the HMAS Success reached the scene and could take a close-up look, which meant at least 48 hours.

Four aircraft were sent on Thursday to search the area, with an Australian P-3 Orion aircraft arriving mid-afternoon and a cutting-edge United States P-8 Poseidon due to arrive shortly after that. The US broadcaster ABC, which had a reporter on board the P-8 Poseidon, reported that the plane also had returned home without finding anything.

Another Australian Orion as well as an Orion from the Royal New Zealand Air Force were due to arrive later on Thursday.

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The MH370 story in pictures
The saga begins on March 8, when Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 departs Kuala Lumpur at 12:41am, local time. On board are 227 passengers and 12 crew.
The MH370 story in pictures
Captaining the flight of the Boeing 777-200 is 53-year old Zaharie Ahmad Shah, shown here on the right.
The MH370 story in pictures
At 1:21am the MH370's transponder stops signalling, halting the regular responses it usually gives to radar signals. The plane makes a series of strange but controlled movements, turning west sharply, then climbing above its designed height limit and back down.
The MH370 story in pictures
At 1.30am, on point 4, the plane is spotted for the last time on civilian radar. At 2.15am, on point 5, military radar spots it, although it is not clear at the time that this was MH370. Satellite data suggests the plane could also have angled towards point 6.
The MH370 story in pictures
At 6.32am air traffic control in Kuala Lumpur sends a radio signal on an emergency channel asking MH370 to contact them. The plane is now overdue at Beijing Airport, shown.
The MH370 story in pictures
Relatives of passengers despair, and the search begins.
The MH370 story in pictures
International news media focus on the story immediately.
The MH370 story in pictures
Multiple false leads pop up, like this oil spotted by a Vietnamese search plane.
The MH370 story in pictures
Malaysian government and airline officials have released confusing and contradictory information. Here, Malaysian Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, left, and Department of Civil Aviation director general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman take questions at a press conference.
The MH370 story in pictures
Concerns are raised when it becomes apparent that two Iranian men, shown here, boarded the plane with stolen passports. Interpol rejects the suggestion of terrorism, however, concluding the men were probably asylum seekers.
The MH370 story in pictures
The search intensifies, covering new areas with a wide array of international support.
The MH370 story in pictures
The search intensifies, covering new areas with a wide array of international support.
The MH370 story in pictures
The search intensifies, covering new areas with a wide array of international support.
The MH370 story in pictures
The search intensifies, covering new areas with a wide array of international support.
The MH370 story in pictures
The search intensifies, covering new areas with a wide array of international support.
The MH370 story in pictures
Outpourings of grief and support are expressed worldwide.
The MH370 story in pictures
Outpourings of grief and support are expressed worldwide.
The MH370 story in pictures
Outpourings of grief and support are expressed worldwide.
The MH370 story in pictures
Outpourings of grief and support are expressed worldwide.
The MH370 story in pictures
Outpourings of grief and support are expressed worldwide.
The MH370 story in pictures
The anguish of the relatives is palpable.
The MH370 story in pictures
The anguish of the relatives is palpable.
The MH370 story in pictures
The anguish of the relatives is palpable.
The MH370 story in pictures
The anguish of the relatives is palpable.
The MH370 story in pictures
Theories abound. Fellow pilot Chris Goodfellow has suggested that a tyre may have caught fire, causing the pilots to turn towards the closest suitable airport, with the rapid ascent and descent perhaps representing an attempt to extinguish the fire. Critics of this theory have pointed out that the change in path was programmed into the plane's computer 12 minutes before the calm toned "good night" transmission, suggesting the change in course was planned.
The MH370 story in pictures
Given the amount of fuel on board, the plane could have made it as far north as Kazakhstan, on a possible flight path shown in orange.
The MH370 story in pictures
Or somewhere southwest of Australia, on a possible flight path shown in orange.
The MH370 story in pictures
Others have speculated that the pilot or co-pilot may have intentionally crashed the plane. The FBI is trying to restore deleted simulator-flights from Pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah's computer – but these could be innocuous. Critics of the crash theory say neither the pilot nor co-pilot had ever expressed any kind of radical sentiment or displayed mental issues, and both possessed adequate flying experience.
The MH370 story in pictures
The ever-present worry of terrorism remains. No groups have claimed responsibility for the incident, and a political motivation is unclear - but that doesn't rule it out.
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On March 20, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told his parliament that objects had been spotted in waters hundreds of kilometres off the western Australian coast. Further searches, by Australian, New Zealand and US planes, were needed to find out if they were part of the missing plane.
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The crew of one of two Chinese Air Force Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft used in the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 walk away from their plane in Perth.
MH370 search
Thirty-eight days after the plane went missing, an Australian navy ship is guided into position by a Royal New Zealand Airforce P-3K2 Orion aircraft. Officials say they will deploy an underwater robot to aid in the hunt.
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Announcing that an underwater drone will be deployed imminently, Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre chief Angus Houston says an oil slick has been detected in the search area for the missing plane.

The New Zealand Air Force P3 Orion would take four hours to reach the search area, arriving about 10.20pm NZ time. It would leave the search area at about 1am and land at 5am.

AMSA tweeted late on Thursday: ‘‘RAAF P3 crew unable to locate debris. Cloud & rain limited visbility. Further aircraft to continue search’’.

The deployment of the HMAS Success from Fremantle underscored the seriousness with which the authorities are taking the satellite breakthrough.

John Young of AMSA
SEARCH CONTINUES: John Young, of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, stands in front of a map showing the search area.

Another source close to the operation stressed there were still many ‘‘vagaries’’ about the situation and said there was not yet enough evidence to have a ‘‘high level of confidence’’.

But he added: ‘‘It’s certainly the show in town and it’s going to focus all of our efforts.’’

AMSA’s emergency response manager John Young said two objects, one measuring roughly 24 metres in length, had been found on images taken by a commercial satellite.

Search Map MH370
The area in which wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 may have been spotted.

Those images had been analysed by Defence’s satellite experts from the Australian Geospatial Intelligence Organisation, which deemed them ‘‘credible sightings’’, he said.

 Young said poor weather was likely to hamper the search, which was set to continue until about midnight Sydney/Melbourne time and continue at first light.

Former Qantas pilot Trevor Jensen told the ABC that the larger object could be a wing or a part of the tail. Fuel is kept in the wings and, if it had run out, the wing would likely float, he said.

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A graphic updating what is known about missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which has been missing since March 8. | <b><a target=_blank href="http://static.stuff.co.nz/files/MalaysiaMH370full.jpg">Click here for full-size graphic</a></b>

Each wing of a Boeing 777 is about 27 metres long, though the satellite image provided by AMSA suggests an object that is broader than a plane’s wing.

Young also urged caution, saying: ‘‘I must emphasise that these objects may be very difficult to locate and they may not be related to the search.’’

The images are understood to have been taken on Sunday, raising questions about why it took four days for authorities to act on the find. The debris in the pictures may have drifted dozens of kilometers since the images were taken.

The Australian government has said they came from a commercial satellite.

A merchant ship was also due to reach the area about 6pm on Thursday, possibly providing a close-up of the objects, though the HMAS Success is likely to have a better chance of hauling any large objects out of the sea.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott broke the news of the find in Parliament on Thursday, saying he had informed his Malaysian counterpart, Prime Minister Najib Razak, and promised to keep him updated.

Young said Australian authorities were also retasking satellites to collect more images of the area, but could not give a time as to when more images would be available.

Experts have warned that even if the wreckage is found, the strong currents in the southern Indian Ocean mean that the black box could still be hard to find.

Young said he understood the ocean to be ‘‘several thousand metres’’ deep in that area.

The black box will be critical to solving the mystery of what happened on the plane. If the objects prove to be wreckage from the MH370, it means the plane likely flew until it ran out of fuel.

Aviation expert Peter Marosszeky from UNSW said he believed the crash was a combination of foul play and an electrical fault.

"It looks there was foul play and whoever was the in cockpit couldn't get the plane to work the way they wanted it to," he said.

Marosszeky said when communication was lost, all electronic signals and lights on board would have been disabled.

Senior Indonesian minister Djoko Suyanto said it was ‘‘too early to conclude that the debris belongs to the MH370 plane’’.

‘‘In the early days of the search, there was also a satellite image of the South China sea, but it turned out not to be from that plane, so we have to be careful,’’ he told Indonesian TV. ‘‘We cannot conclude that it’s MH370 until after we carefully examine the site.’’

New Zealand's Air Vice Marshal Kevin Short said the three search planes would be staggered two to three hours apart to search a relatively small area.

"I'm hoping, along with the search authorities, that the first aircraft on task will find them. New Zealand is the third of the three going on task."

He said there would not be any more aircraft leaving New Zealand to join the search.

WAIT TAKES TOLL ON KIWI'S FAMILY

Flight MH370 went missing on March 8 with 239 passengers and crew on board, including two New Zealanders, Perth-based Paul Weeks, and Ximin Wang from Auckland.

Weeks' sister, Sara, said she and her Christchurch-based family members were closely monitoring the news.

However, they were not jumping to any conclusions following the Perth press conference.

The family had been taking all of the reports about the aircraft's plight seriously, however contradictory or speculative, but "we're not going to get too excited until they confirm anything".

Sara Weeks said it was "sensible" of the Australian authorities to take a cautious approach.

"Until they can tell us something concrete we'll just continue to

plod along like we have been. You can't say something is confirmed - that it's part of the plane - until you know," she said.

"It gets your heart racing... I will tell you that, but it could just be nothing. We don't know and neither do they.

"I guess if there is some confirmed news and we find out that it is the plane then, yes... it will give us something to grieve over, because we don't have that yet."

Sara Weeks said the past 12 days, and not knowing the plane's fate, had taken its toll on the family.

But the outpouring of support from around New Zealand, including from strangers, had been overwhelming.

 "It's a horrible situation. It just is. Everything is still up in the air. It's always on your mind."

NZ WILL 'WITHOUT DOUBT' SUPPORT AUSTRALIA - KEY

Speaking from Shanghai, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said the information was not substantial yet, but Abbott would not have made the comments in Parliament if he wasn't fairly certain.

"I think for the New Zealand families involved it'll be a time of both real distress and in a sense an acknowledgement of what they've been fearing the most that their loved ones are no longer alive, if that's the case."

New Zealand would "without doubt" provide assistance if asked.

"If the Australians need any support whatsoever we'll be the first on hand to support them."