A red orb of spicy fire with luminous spots that glow menacingly against a black background.
This, explained prominent French scientist Etienne Klein, is the latest amazing image captured by the James Webb Space Telescope of Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our Sun.
Other Twitter users marveled at the detail in the image, said to have been taken by the telescope that has wowed the world with images of distant galaxies dating back to the birth of the universe.
“This level of detail… A new world is revealed every day,” he enthused.
But in fact, as Klein later revealed, the image didn’t show the fascinating star, which was just over four light-years from the Sun, but a far more humble slice of Spanish chorizo sausage sizzling on the lips.
“According to contemporary cosmology, no item belonging to Spanish cured meats exists anywhere other than on Earth,” he said.
Klein acknowledged that many users didn’t get his joke, which he said was aimed only at encouraging us “to be wary of arguments from authority figures as well as the spontaneous eloquence of certain images.”
However, at a time when the fight against fake news is of paramount importance to the scientific community, many Twitter users said they were not amused by Klein, director of research at France’s Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and producer of a radio show.
On Wednesday, he apologized to those who were misled.
“I come to apologize to those who may have been shocked by my prank, which had nothing original about it,” he said, describing the post as “a scientist’s joke.”
He was back on safer ground shortly after, posting on Twitter an image of the famous Cartwheel Galaxy taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. This time, he assured users the photo was real.
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