A prominent French physicist has been forced to apologise for a photograph that he said was from NASA’s new space telescope but which was in fact a piece of chorizo.
Etienne Klein, a renowned philosopher and research director at the French Atomic Energy Commission, informed his followers that ‘no object belonging to Spanish charcuterie exists anywhere but on Earth.’
He had posted a tweet last Sunday that he claimed was the latest astonishing photograph from the cutting edge James Webb Space Telescope of the star Proxima Centauri.
The photograph purports to show a furious red ball of cosmic energy, pockmarked with glowing solar storms roiling across the neighboring star’s surface.
‘Photo of Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun, located 4.2 light years from us,’ Klein tweeted.
‘She was taken by the JWST. This level of detail… A new world is revealed day after day.’
This is the picture which Etienne Klein, a renowned physicist, philosopher and research director at the French Atomic Energy Commission, posted to Twitter claiming – as a joke – that it was the latest astonishing photograph from the cutting edge James Webb Space Telescope of the star Proxima Centauri
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory took this photo of our sun on January 8 2022
Etienne Klein, a renowned philosopher and research director at the French Atomic Energy Commission
The photograph resembled famous portraits of the sun taken by the European Space Agency’s Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI), which captures detailed solar storms on our home star’s surface at a distance of 75 million miles.
Proxima Centauri, the star closest to the earth, is 5.9 trillion miles away.
While most Twitter users were able to recognize that the photo posted by the preeminent physicist was in fact a slice of Spanish sausage, others were more gullible.
‘The last photo of Proxima Centauri was this,’ said one user, posting a photo of a distant star. ‘This is a huge step forward.’
‘I can’t tell if it’s a prank or really proxima that looks like a chorizo,’ wrote another.
However, Twitter user Ned Boeuf wasn’t fooled. ‘Fake, it’s a slice of chorizo.’
Then the Twitter backlash began.
‘Coming from a scientific research director, it’s quite inappropriate to share this type of thing without specifying from the 1st tweet that it is false information when you know the speed at which a false information spreads,’ came one indignant reply.
Twitter user impressed with the huge step forward in space telescopy that the JWST represented
This user was more skeptical but still on the fence about whether it was a joke or serious
However, not everyone was fooled
The backlash began with users accusing Klein of spreading misinformation
‘Indeed, there has been a loss of resolution which makes the joke more believable and therefore more toxic!’ wrote another.
Klein acknowledged that many users had not understood his joke which he said was simply aimed at encouraging people to question and not automatically accept ‘eloquent images’ from people in positions of authority.
On Wednesday he wrote his apology.
‘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,’ he tweeted to his 89,200 followers.
‘Let us learn to be wary of arguments from authority as much as of the spontaneous eloquence of certain images….’
‘Well, when it’s time for the aperitif, cognitive biases seem to have a field day…
Elon Musk posted this meme last month making light-hearted fun of the JWST’s astronomy photos
‘Beware, then, of them. According to contemporary cosmology, no object belonging to Spanish charcuterie exists anywhere but on Earth.’
‘I come to present my apologies to those who may have been shocked by my prank, which had nothing original about it,’ he said, describing the post as a ‘scientist’s joke’.
Prior to that he posted the James Webb Space Telescope’s capture of the Chariot Wheel galaxy and its companion galaxies, (‘REAL this time’).
‘Located 500 million light-years away, it was undoubtedly spiral in its past, but took on this strange appearance following a furious galactic pile-up.’
Last month Elon Musk posted a meme making fun of the JWST, comparing the granite slab of a kitchen with a visual of the space, in a light-hearted joke targeting the NASA.