A French scientist has apologized after tweeting a photo of a slice of chorizo, saying it was an image of a distant star taken by the James Webb Space Telescope.
Etienne Klein, famed physicist and director of France’s Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, shared the image of the spicy Spanish sausage on Twitter last week, praising the “level of detail” it provided.
“Image of Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun, located 4.2 light years away from us. It was taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. This level of detail… A new world unfolds every day,” he told his more than 91,000 followers on Sunday.
The post was retweeted and commented on by thousands of users, who took the scientist at his word.
Things, however, weren’t quite what they seemed.
Klein later admitted in a series of follow-up tweets that the image was, in fact, a close-up of a slice of chorizo taken against a black background.
“Well, when it’s happy hour, cognitive biases seem to find something to play with…Beware of that.” According to contemporary cosmology, no object related to Spanish charcuterie exists anywhere but on Earth.
After facing a backlash from members of the online community for the prank, he wrote: “In view of some comments, I feel compelled to clarify that this tweet showing an alleged photo of Proxima Centauri was a joke. Let us learn to be as wary of arguments from positions of authority as of the spontaneous eloquence of certain images.
On Wednesday, Klein apologized for the hoax, saying his intention was “to urge caution regarding images that appear to speak for themselves.”
In a bid to make amends, he posted an image of the spectacular Cartwheel galaxy, assuring followers that this time the photo was genuine.
The Webb Telescope, the most powerful telescope ever launched into space, officially began scientific operations on July 12. He will be able to peer inside the atmospheres of exoplanets and observe some of the first galaxies created after the beginning of the universe by observing them through infrared light. , which is invisible to the human eye.