A French physicist supposedly tweeted an image of a distant star taken by the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), but it turned out to be fake news and nothing more than a slice of chorizo.
Étienne Klein, a prominent physicist and director at France’s Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, tweeted an image of a red ball of spicy Spanish sausage last week, asserting it was the closest star to the sun.
“Picture of Proxima Centauri, the nearest 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 is unveiled everyday,” Klein told his more than 92,000 followers on Sunday.
Photo de Proxima du Centaure, l’étoile la plus proche du Soleil, située à 4,2 année-lumière de nous.
Elle a été prise par le JWST.
Ce niveau de détails… Un nouveau monde se dévoile jour après jour. pic.twitter.com/88UBbHDQ7Z
— Etienne KLEIN (@EtienneKlein) July 31, 2022
The tweet went viral as Twitter users marveled at what they thought was the latest deep space picture taken by JWST.
However, Klein later revealed that the image wasn’t a star over four light-years away but just a slice of Spanish sausage chorizo.
“Well, when it’s cocktail hour, cognitive bias seem to find plenty to enjoy… Beware of it. According to contemporary cosmology, no object related to Spanish charcuterie exists anywhere else other than on Earth,” he said.
On Wednesday, Klein apologized for the fake news:
“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 tweet as a “scientist’s joke.”
He also tweeted an image of the Cartwheel Galaxy taken by JWST, assuring the image was “real this time.”
Photo (VRAIE cette fois…) de la galaxie de la Roue du Chariot et de ses galaxies compagnes, prise par le JWST. Située à 500 millions d’années-lumière, elle fut sans doute spirale dans son passé, mais a pris cette étrange allure à la suite d’un furieux carambolage galactique. pic.twitter.com/vmiDjU1Gjt
— Etienne KLEIN (@EtienneKlein) August 3, 2022
The timing of Klein’s tweet comes several weeks after NASA published the deepest views of the cosmos, a sight no one on Earth had ever seen.