A famous French scientist fooled the internet with some phoney bologna, passing off a slice of chorizo sausage as a space telescope image of a distant star. Étienne Klein, research director at France’s Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, Tweeted the photo last week, claiming it showed the closest star to the sun. The image was captioned, “Photo of Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun, located 4.2 light years from us. She was taken by the JWST. This level of detail… A new world is revealed day after day.”
JWST is short for the James Webb Space Telescope, a powerful new tool capturing incredible images every day in space. On July 11, NASA released the space telescope’s first image which contained thousands of galaxies, including the faintest objects ever observed in the infrared. Since then, numerous photographs have been released, showcasing views of space never before seen in the detail that JWST provides.
When Klein shared the image on July 31, it became a viral hit much like other JWST images have become. Since then, the photographic Tweet was shared more than 3,100 times, capturing more than 13,000 likes.
However, the image wasn’t from JWST: it was simply a slice of chorizo. Stunned that the sausage slice got the attention it did, Klein returned to Twitter to say:
- “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 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… Beware, then, of them. According to contemporary cosmology, no object belonging to Spanish charcuterie exists anywhere but on Earth.”
Klein told reporters in France that he wanted to use this a way of educating people about fake news online. However, Klein continues to use Twitter to share real photographs snapped by the space telescope.