Scientists detect underwater signal that could make finding missing plane possible – Executive Digest

British scientists from Cardiff University may be closer to solving the mystery of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which has been missing since March 8, 2014 with 239 people on board. Using hydrophones — underwater microphones — the researchers captured a six-second signal that could help pinpoint the Boeing 777’s location.

The researchers analyzed data from two hydroacoustic stations located in Cape Leeuwin, Western Australia, and Diego Garcia, a British territory in the Indian Ocean. The stations were established as part of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty monitoring regime and were operational at the time MH370 is believed to have run out of fuel and crashed into the Indian Ocean.

A Cardiff University team has identified a signal recorded at the Cape Leeuwin station that coincides with the time interval in which the plane crashed into the sea. However, this signal was not detected at the Diego Garcia station. “This raises questions about its origin,” said lead researcher Dr. Usama Qadri, professor of applied mathematics. “Given the sensitivity of hydrophones, a large aircraft impacting the ocean surface will not leave a detectable pressure signature, particularly at nearby hydrophones.”

To verify the origin of the signal, the team recommends further tests, such as the detection of the Argentine submarine ARA San Juan. After the explosion in November 2017, the submarine was located on the bottom of the South Atlantic by detonating grenades that mimicked the explosion, whose signals crossed those captured by hydrophones.

“A similar exercise could be conducted on Arc Seven using explosions or air cannons equivalent to the energy levels believed to have been associated with MH370,” Dr Khadri said, as quoted by the Telegraph. If the signals from these bursts show similar pressure amplitudes to the signal of interest, this may focus future searches on that particular signal.

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The disappearance of MH370 has become one of aviation’s greatest mysteries. After taking off from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, the plane turned west over the Indian Ocean. Two weeks after the disappearance, British satellite telecommunications company Inmarsat revealed that the plane’s satellite unit responded to requests for hours after it disappeared from other radars. Working with the UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), they were able to provide investigators with a possible search area.

Between 2015 and 2016, wreckage was found on several islands in the Indian Ocean, including Reunion, and off the coast of Africa. A new search was launched in January 2018 by a private company called Ocean Infinity, but after six months of searching, it turned up nothing.

“The detection of this signal raises questions about the potential use of hydroacoustic technology to detect aircraft crashes at sea and assist search and rescue efforts,” explained Dr Khatri. “Unfortunately, we were unable to find the definitive signal needed to search for the missing aircraft. However, if recommendations are followed by competent authorities, we can assess the relevance of the observed signals, which could clarify the location of MH370.

The discovery may not be definitive, but it marks a significant advance in the search for MH370, renewing hopes of finally solving one of the greatest mysteries of modern aviation.

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