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Key questions on possible Flight 370 debris

NEED TO KNOW
  • If debris is from missing Malaysia Airlines flight, expect investigation to enter new phase
  • Planes, ships so far unable to locate floating objects
  • Australia defense minister: 'We are in the most isolated part of the world.'
  • Isolated and deep: Ocean can be two miles deep at site
Key questions on possible Flight 370 debris

Did they find it???

This graphic made Wednesday, March 19, 2014 and released by Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) Thursday, March 20, 2014, shows an area in the southern Indian Ocean that the AMSA is concentrating its search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 on.

See: The images that have the world's attention

Satellite image shows possible large pieces of debris that could be from the missing Malaysia Airlines jet.

"A credible lead." As darkness fell Thursday night across the Indian Ocean, that was as far as Malaysian officials were willing to go in speculating what those two large objects are, spotted floating in the water by an Australian satellite.

So far, a multinational air-and-sea search of the area has failed to locate the objects, which may or may not be debris from missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Thursday's search ended with nightfall, but will resume Friday. (Image: Search planes in the region)

The location of the possible debris, about 1,500 southwest of Perth, Australia, lends support to the popular theory that Flight 370 changed course shortly after crossing the Malaysian Peninsula and continued south-southwest until running out of fuel. Based on projections associated with that theory, the flight would have crashed in the remote area of the Indian Ocean in which the possible debris was spotted. That's why the search was concentrated there in the first place.

To put in perspective just how remote the location is in which these objects were spotted:

• 1,500 miles is roughly the distance between Chicago and Las Vegas.

• Or the equivalent of laying 4,500 One World Trade Centers end to end.

• China was sending its closest ship to the site, which was 2,600 miles away, or, the width of the United States between Boston and San Diego.

• The deep waters could also pose a challenge to any recovery effort. The Indian Ocean can be about 13,000 deep where the objects were found. That's roughly the length of 62 Boeing 777s stacked nose to tail.

• And there's also this succinct quote from Australia's defense minister, who told Sky News, "We are in the most isolated part of the world."

While it could help chip away at solving the mystery of Flight 370, this possible identification of debris has added an entire new batch of questions surrounding the plane and regarding what this potential discovery could mean. Among them:

1. If it's not wreckage from the plane, what else could it be? The two most prominent possibilities are a shipping container or a field of ocean trash, which is what tripped up investigators in the 2009 search for Air France 477.

2. The location of the objects is slightly east of the plane's expected course. Why's that? It could have to do with the particular types of currents in that area of the Indian Ocean.

3. What are the dimensions of the objects found versus the dimensions of the missing plane?

4. And how does that compare with the size of common cargo containers?

5. How will the extremely remote location of the discovery impact efforts to explore the site?

6. What's Australia saying about the discovery? This, in their government's own words.

7. How long until we know for sure what these floating objects are?

8. Despite the obstacles, if the wreckage is ever confirmed and recovered, how can that inform our understanding of what brought the plane down?

We're sure you have your own questions, too. You can go ahead and discuss them and any other thoughts you have on Flight 370 in the comments.

Follow Jonathan Anker on Twitter @JonFromHLN

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