Earlier this week, French physicist Etienne Klein appeared to post a photo of Proxima Centauri, the closest known star to ours, located about 4.2 light-years away. The photo looked stunning and quickly amassed thousands of likes.
There was just one problem: the photo was actually just a bit of chorizo.
As translated by IGN, Klein originally posted the photo with the caption, “Closest photo of Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the sun, located 4.2 light years from us. It was taken by the [James Webb Space Telescope]. This level of detail… a new world is revealed day by day.”
Photo of Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun, located 4.2 light years from us.
It was awarded by the JWST.
This level of detail… A new world is revealed day after day. pic.twitter.com/88UBbHDQ7Z
— Etienne KLEIN (@EtienneKlein) July 31, 2022
It quickly became apparent that the photo was fake; joke of a scientist.
“Well, when it’s happy hour, cognitive biases seem to have a blast, so watch out for them.” Klein tweeted. “According to contemporary cosmology, no object belonging to Spanish charcuterie exists anywhere but on Earth.”
He then warned against misinformation online.
“Seeing some of the comments, I feel compelled to clarify that the tweet showing an alleged snapshot of Proxima Centauri was a form of amusement. pictures.”
If Klein wanted to draw attention to misinformation, then mission accomplished. The tweet was reported in several major publications around the world and continues to circulate online.
Fortunately, there is lots of actual photos from the James Webb Space Telescope, which was successfully deployed on January 24. The telescope’s mission is to see objects that are too distant and faint for the Hubble Space Telescope. Her first image was tweeted by President Biden, and she later sent back other images as well.
Images from the James Webb Space Telescope