Nightly News   |  March 26, 2014

Missing Plane Debris? New Satellite Photos Offer Clues

Search teams now have a more focused area in which to look for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, using information from new satellite images.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> the news now many of us woke up to from the other side of the world today. a french satellite had spotted over 120 pieces of debris in the water in the southern indian ocean . understanding that any big wreckage is likely three miles down and in the dark and anything on the surface could have already drifted hundreds of miles, still searchers are moving to that spot to see if these pieces are from the missing plane. nbc's tom costello remains on the story in our washington newsroom tonight. good evening.

>> reporter: hi, brian. 19 days now since flight 370 went missing. authorities believe the debris spotted in those satellite images provide the best chance of finding the plane. the challenge now, finding the plane. in the air and on the water, search teams are moving towards the area where a french satellite spotted something on sunday.

>> some of the objects appear to be bright, possibly indicating solid material.

>> reporter: through holes in the cloud layer, the new satellite photos are believed to show 122 separate items floating in the middle of the ocean almost 1600 miles southwest of perth, australia . the biggest piece is estimated to be 75 feet long. the images are thought to come from the same general longitude and latitude where chinese and australia satellites spotted debris last week.

>> and if it is confirmed to be mh-370 at least we can move on to the next piece of deep sea surveillance search.

>> reporter: but the photos were taken before a cyclone hit the search zone. noaa images show waves among the biggest in the world. 19 days since flight 370 disappeared, any debris could have drifted hundreds of miles from the original crash scene. yet some pieces should still be floating.

>> the seat back cushions, the things from the overhead compartments as they break open , baggage and a lot of things like that float and they float for a long time.

>> reporter: still the surface of the moon has been mapped more thoroughly than the ocean floor in that region.

>> we're talking about an environment which is so harsh that anything of a rescue or survey has never been done before.

>> reporter: but with depths of two to three miles, recovering and reassembling a plane may not be possible. meanwhile, u.s. federal agents looking at the computer simulator and hard drives from the pilot and co-pilot are nearly done with their work.

>> i have teams working literally around the clock to try to exploit that. i expect it to be done fairly shortly within a day or two.

>> reporter: a u.s. official tells nbc news the search has turned up nothing that would shed any light on what happened to the plane. meanwhile, search teams are just now heading back out thursday morning in australia . but they don't have much time. another storm is only a day away, brian.

>> tom costello in our d.c. newsroom tonight. tom, thanks.