The Webb Telescope’s latest ‘photo’ is actually chorizo
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) recently sent home some pretty spectacular photos, from freewheeling galaxies to the “cosmic cliffs” of the Carina Nebula. Thus, when the French scientist Étienne Klein tweeted a photo of JWST’s latest work, the internet was thrilled to adopt it. Unfortunately, what was claimed to be the “distant star” Proxima Centauri up close turned out to be something much more terrestrial.
The Webb Chorizo Photo Incident
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So how did it all happen? On July 31, Klein, director of research at the Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, tweeted the now infamous image showing a slice of chorizo against a black background, along with the following caption (which has been translated ):
“Photo of Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun, located 4.2 light years from us. She was taken away by the JWST. This level of detail… a new world is revealed day after day.
Upon close examination, the image is clearly nothing extraterrestrial, but at first glance, given the caption and Klein’s job title, it’s easy to see how some people might be fooled.
Good intentions, bad audience
Now, before anyone accuses Klein of deliberately spreading misinformation, it should be noted that his intentions were in fact the opposite. The tweet, he claims, was nothing more than a joke, ironically intended to educate people about fake news online.
Despite this, the Internet has done what it does best. And in a short time, Klein’s chorizo image has been liked over 14,000 times and shared/retweeted thousands more. The image was also picked up and widely shared on other social platforms.
A few days after taking off, Klein publicly apologized, writing below the original tweet, “I feel compelled to clarify that this tweet showing an alleged snapshot of Proxima Centauri was a form of amusement. Let us learn to be as wary of arguments from authority as of the spontaneous eloquence of certain images.
Klein goes on to write that, “according to contemporary cosmology, no object belonging to Spanish charcuterie exists anywhere but on Earth.” A few days later he tweeted another photothis one Actually captured by the JWST.
The moral of the story? Take everything on the internet with a grain of salt, or maybe a slice of salty deli meat.