An eminent French scientist has apologized after sharing a photo he claimed was from the James Webb Space Telescope, but was actually just a cross-section of a chorizo.
Etienne Klein, a director of France’s Atomic Energy Commission, posted a photo he believes showed Proxima Centuri, the star closest to our sun, on social media on Monday.
“This level of detail… a new world is revealed every day,” he enthuses in the tweet, seen by more than 90,000 people.
But later this week, he apologized for what he called “a scientist’s joke”, saying he was only meant to remind people “to be wary of arguments from people in positions of authority”.
“I come to apologize to those who may have been shocked by my joke, which had nothing original,” he tweeted.
Professor Klein added a lavish description to his original chorizo photo: “Photo of Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun, 4.2 light-years away. She was taken by the JWST.”
In a follow-up tweet, he told people to be careful about what they see online.
“When it comes time for aperitif, cognitive biases seem to have a field day… so watch out for them,” Professor Klein said.
“According to contemporary cosmology, nowhere else than on Earth does an object that belongs to the Spanish cured meats exists.”
But the joke didn’t go down well with everyone – some Twitter users hit back at the professor.
“As the director of a scientific study, it’s kind of inappropriate to share things like this,” wrote one Twitter user.
After posting his apology, Klein shared another photo from the James Webb Space Telescope, which he insisted was “real this time…”.
It was an image of the Chariot Wheel Galaxy and the surrounding galaxies. It was “500 million light-years away, it was no doubt spiraling in its past, but got this strange appearance after a raging galactic buildup,” he wrote.