(CNN) – A French scientist has apologized after tweeting a photo of a chorizo disk, claiming it was an image of a distant star taken from the James Webb Space Telescope.
Étienne Klein, a celebrated physicist and director of 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 offered.
“Image of Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun, 4.2 light-years from us. It was taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. That attention to detail… Every day a new world is revealed,” he told his more than 91,000 followers on Sunday.
The post was retweeted and commented on by thousands of users, who took the scientist at his word.
However, things were not quite as they seemed.
Klein later admitted in a series of follow-up tweets that the image was actually a close-up of a slice of chorizo taken against a black background.
“Well, when it’s cocktail hour, cognitive biases seem to enjoy a lot… Beware of that. According to contemporary cosmology, no object related to Spanish cured meats exists anywhere other than on Earth.”
After facing backlash from members of the online community over the prank, he wrote, “In light of certain comments, I feel compelled to state that this tweet, which allegedly features an image of Proxima Centauri, was a joke. Let us learn to be as wary of the arguments of authority figures as we are of the spontaneous eloquence of certain images.”
On Wednesday, Klein apologized for the joke and said his intention was “to caution against images that seem to speak for themselves.”
To make amends, he posted an image of the spectacular Cartwheel Galaxy, assuring his followers that this time the photo was real.
The Webb Telescope, the most powerful telescope ever launched into space, officially began scientific operations on July 12. It will be able to peer into the atmospheres of exoplanets and observe some of the first galaxies to form after the universe began, looking at them through infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye.
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