Malaysia plane saga: Your questions answered

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Story highlights

  • 122 objects were spotted by satellite in the Indian Ocean, official says
  • CNN aviation analyst: "Very good chance" the objects could be a big break
  • Images taken Sunday, news came today; delay could be due to laborious review process

Malaysian officials say that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went down in the Indian Ocean, and the search is on for the wreckage, flight data recorders or any other part of the plane.

On Wednesday, a French defense firm provided new satellite images that show 122 objects floating in the southern Indian Ocean, not far from other satellite sightings that could be related to the plane, said acting Malaysia Transportation Minister Hishammuddin Bin Hussein.

What about the latest spotting?

The objects were scattered over 154 square miles (nearly 400 square kilometers), Hishammuddin said. He wasn't sure whether Australian authorities coordinating the search for the plane had been able to follow up Wednesday on the new satellite images, which came from Airbus Defence and Space.

Learn about technology being used in the search

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Did search planes see anything?

Search aircraft saw three objects, but none were obvious plane parts, the Australian Maritime Safety Agency said. A civil aircraft in the search spotted two objects that were probably rope, the agency said, and a New Zealand military plane spotted a blue object. None was found again when aircraft made further passes, the agency said on Twitter.

The last of 12 planes dispatched to the site returned to base in Perth late Wednesday without finding anything definitive, Australian officials said.

There have been a lot of leads, so why could these sightings be important?

The latest images that capture the 122 objects appear to be the most significant discovery yet in the hunt for the missing plane, which vanished on March 8 with 239 people aboard, said CNN aviation analyst Miles O'Brien.

"There's a very good chance this could be the break we've been waiting for," he said.

Aviation safety analyst David Soucie agreed, saying he was particularly intrigued by the size of a larger object.

The items seen on satellite range from about 3 feet (1 meter) to about 75 feet (23 meters), according to Hishammuddin. Some appear bright, indicating they may be solid, he said.

"It has potential to be a wing that's floating," Soucie said. "So I'm really encouraged by it, I really am."

The 122 images were captured Sunday, so why are we just now hearing about them?

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The transport minister didn't explain the delay in delivering the news. However, this issue also came up when Australians found the first satellite images showing suspected debris in the southern Indian Ocean. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said that the delay was caused by the size of the search area and the volume of the data that has to be reviewed. A similar explanation is probably behind the latest delay.

How many countries are involved in search efforts?

There are seven countries, including Malaysia, helping the current search, which is divided into two sectors, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Agency. Australia is leading the effort, based out of Perth. Others are China, New Zealand, the United States, South Korea and Japan.

How are the families of those on board?

Family members are anguished as they wait for answers. One-third of the plane's passengers were Chinese, and Malaysian authorities' announcement Monday that families should give up hope that their loved ones were alive angered many Chinese.

"My heart can't handle it. I don't want to hurt my children," Cheng Li Ping told CNN as she waited in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for evidence about what happened to her husband, who was aboard.

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