Scientists plan to release detailed information on Wednesday about a mysterious noise, possibly that of an ocean impact, recorded by two undersea receivers in the Indian Ocean about the time that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 ceased satellite transmissions and vanished on March 8.
The low-frequency noise, which was outside the normal range of hearing and had to be sped up to be made audible, appears to have traveled halfway across the Indian Ocean to the receivers off the coast of Australia.
"It's not even really a thump sort of a sound — it's more of a dull oomph," said Alec Duncan, a senior marine science research fellow at Curtin University near Perth, who has led the research.
The general vicinity from which the noise emanated is a large area of the central Indian Ocean off the southern tip of India and about 3,000 miles northwest of Australia. But that is not consistent with calculations of an arc of possible locations in the southeastern Indian Ocean where the plane, carrying 239 people, might have run out of fuel. Those calculations were from Inmarsat, the global satellite communications company.
Scientists have struggled to figure out the origin of the noise.
"If you ask me what's the probability this is related to the flight, without the satellite data it's 25 or 30 percent, but that's certainly worth taking a very close look at," Dr. Duncan said.
A deep-sea submersible searched without success this spring in a very small section of the arc indicated by the satellite data. This was about 600 miles, or about 1,000 kilometers, off the Australian coast.
Even without the Inmarsat data, there are other possible explanations for the noise besides an aircraft impact, Dr. Duncan said. One would be a very small undersea earthquake that would produce a similar noise audible across great distances but not strong enough to show up on the nearest seismometers on land, which did not record a tremor at the time.
The direction from which the noise arrived does produce some small earthquakes every year, although there had not been one in the days preceding Flight 370's disappearance, Dr. Duncan added.
Two receivers — one operated by Dr. Duncan's team and the other by the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization in Vienna — produced enough data to establish the direction from which the noise arrived. But the distance to the source of the noise was less clear. The result, according to Dr. Duncan, is a "box" of ocean several hundred kilometers wide but a couple of thousand kilometers long, Dr. Duncan said.
That would be an area roughly the size of Texas.
Mark Prior, an acoustics expert at the test ban organization headquarters, said that the sound might be consistent with an ocean impact or with some kind of a sealed, air-filled container that sank into the depths until the exterior water pressure caused it to crumple.
Mr. Prior said that the sound might have been reflected off a seamount, or underwater mountain, before it traveled to the two receivers. So the receivers' data might be indicating the distance and direction of the seamount, not the origin of the noise.
The Australian government has funded the research at Curtin University, and additional experts in Canberra, the country's capital, have also collaborated. The Australian authorities have been skeptical so far about ordering a new search thousands of miles away based on the noise.
Martin Dolan, the chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, said last week that search operations would continue to focus on the narrow arc defined by the Inmarsat calculations.