A leading French physicist apologizes after admitting that a viral ‘distant star’ photo he shared on Twitter was not captured by the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), but rather a slice of pork sausage with chorizo.
On July 31, Etienne Klein, research director of the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, tweeted the photo to his more than 90,000 Twitter followers and claimed it was a new photo. from the Webb telescope showing the closest star to our Sun.
“Photo of Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun, located 4.2 light years from us,” Klein wrote in the Tweet (as translated by Google). “It was taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. This level of detail… A new world is revealed day after day.
The tweet went viral and was retweeted thousands of times as people marveled at the imaging power of the Webb Telescope, which wowed the world with never-before-seen space photosincluding snapshots of the oldest galaxies ever observed.
In follow-up tweets, Klein revealed that what he tweeted was just a slice of Spanish sausage.
“Well, when it’s happy hour, cognitive biases seem to find something to play with…Beware of that,” Klein writes. “According to contemporary cosmology, no object related to Spanish charcuterie exists anywhere but on Earth.
“In view of some comments, I feel compelled to clarify that this tweet showing an alleged snapshot of Proxima Centauri was a form of amusement. Let us learn to be as wary of arguments of authority as of the spontaneous eloquence of certain images… »
After receiving an angry backlash to his tweet, however, the scientist apologized a few days later for spreading “fake news” which confused a number of people, saying it was just a joke intended to warn his followers to beware of photos seen online.
“I come to apologize to those whom my hoax, which was in no way original, may have shocked,” he wrote. “I just wanted to call for caution with images that seem eloquent on their own. A scientist’s joke.
“This is the first time I’ve made a joke as I’m more on this network as a scientific authority figure,” the physicist said afterwards. told the Paris news magazine Point. “The good news is that some people immediately understood the deception, but it also took two tweets to clarify”, explains the researcher.
“It also illustrates the fact that on this type of social network, fake news is always more successful than real news. I also think that if I hadn’t said it was a picture of James-Webb, it wouldn’t have been so successful.
The James Webb Space Telescope was launched in December 2021 and officially began making scientific observations on July 12, 2022. Now the largest optical telescope in space, it uses its unprecedented imaging capabilities to capture astronomical images and cosmology, including images of exoplanet atmospheres. as well as the first stars and galaxies created at the beginning of the universe.