Recently analyzed satellite images produced in late March 2014 by the French military appear to show man-made objects floating in the ocean, in one of the areas suspected to be where Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 may have crashed after running out of fuel. The location of the suspected debris has allowed researchers to narrow a new search location down to a 5,000 square kilometer area off of the west coast of Australia.

Flight 370 mysteriously disappeared on the night of March 8, 2014, en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to its destination of China’s Ho Chi Minh City. The aircraft disappeared from radar over the South China Sea, with ground control stations losing contact with the plane’s transponder signals at 1:21 am. Indonesian military radar last tracked the aircraft headed out over the Indian Ocean on a west-northwest heading. A massive, $160 million search that lasted nearly three years ensued, but failed to locate the missing aircraft. Over the years, aircraft parts from Flight 370 were discovered on beaches around the Indian Ocean, indicating that the Boeing-777 did indeed crash instead of having been hijacked and taken to a hidden location, but ultimately these clues failed to help searchers pinpoint the aircraft’s resting site.

The French satellite images — initially discounted by authorities — were taken on March 23, 2014, two weeks after Flight 370’s disappearance. Researchers at Geoscience Australia analyzed the images in March 2017, and traced the path of the objects back to where their position would have been two weeks prior using advanced computer modeling, to an area off of the west coast of Australia. Researchers are cautioning the public that there is no way to actually determine whether or not the objects in the images are actually from Flight 370, meaning that there is the possibility that this may result in a wild goose chase.

"So that is a way of potentially narrowing down the search area with the very important caveat that, of course, we can’t be totally sure that those objects seen in the images are actual pieces of plane," cautions CSIRO oceanographer David Griffin. "This might be a really good clue. It might be a red herring. But if you are going to search, then you’d be silly to ignore this potential clue."