A French scientist has tweeted a photo of a slice of chorizo, claiming it was an image of a distant star taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. Étienne Klein, a celebrated physicist and director at France’s Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, shared the image of the spicy Spanish sausage on Twitter last week, praising the level of detail it provided.
The post was retweeted and commented upon by thousands of users, who took the scientist by his word. Things, however, were not quite as they seemed. Klein admitted later in a series of follow-up tweets that the image was, in fact, a close-up of a slice of chorizo taken against a black background. After facing a backlash from members of the online community for the prank, he wrote: “In view of certain comments, I feel obliged to specify that this tweet showing an alleged picture of Proxima Centauri was a joke. Let’s learn to be wary of the arguments from positions of authority as much as the spontaneous eloquence of certain images.” On Wednesday, Klein apologized for the hoax, saying his intention was “to urge caution regarding images that seem to speak for themselves.” In a bid to make amends, he posted an image of the spectacular Cartwheel galaxy, assuring followers that this time the photo was genuine. But still don’t trust random photos on the internet that can be breakfast meat or even computer generated.