Australia was pushed into the global media spotlight on Thursday evening as a sighting of debris that could be flight MH370 off the west coast made headlines across the world.

Media giants including BBC and The New York Times instantly picked up on the breakthrough in the aviation mystery that has captured the world’s attention since the Malaysian Airlines aircraft disappeared on March 8.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott - who is yet to travel far overseas since being elected in September - made front-page news in America, Great Britain and across Asia.

The majority of international news reports correctly identified the vast part of the southern Indian Ocean where the debris was spotted; CNN, The Washington Post and Huffington Post, amongst many others, provided maps online identifying the correct spot.

However, some outlets proved their lack of knowledge of Australia; America’s Fox News broadcast the update to millions of viewers with geographically incorrect map of where the Coral Sea is, resulting in mockery on social media.

The Wall Street Journal concentrated on the families of the 239 missing, many of whom are are in Beijing and Kuala Lumpur waiting for updates. Journalist Laurie Burkitt reported on the ‘‘sombre disbelief’’ many relatives expressed upon hearing the news.

By Thursday afternoon ‘‘MH370’’ and ‘‘Australia’’ was trending across the world on Twitter.

Global interest in the story resulted in the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s website crashing just hours after Mr Abbott made the announcement in Parliament.

Buzzfeed’s devoted followers quickly sought to bring out the lighter side of the breakthrough, creating a series of memes that highlighted Mr Abbott as an unlikely hero of the unprecedented mystery.

Buzzfeed writer Brad Esposito tweeted that it was the most attention Australia had received since the infamous Simpsons episode set locally in 1995.

Other tweeters also sought to see the lighter side of the wave of global attention. Eliza Cussen tweeted: ‘‘Today will go down in history as the day 20 million Fox News viewers found out where Australia is’’.