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French physicist’s Proxima Centauri photo is actually a piece of chorizo

A French physicist recently trolled his Twitter followers with what seemed to be a photo taken with NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, but is actually chorizo.

Etienne Klein, a research director at the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, tweeted a picture of chorizo and identified it as Proxima Centauri – supposedly a “small, low-mass star located near the Sun.”

“Picture of Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun, located 4.2 light years [away] from us. She was taken by the [James Webb Space Telescope],” said Klein in the translated tweet.

proxima centauri, proxima centauri chorizo, chorizo, etienne klein
Screenshot via @EtienneKlein on Twitter

While at first Klein’s tweet made rounds online and was reported in several outlets, the astronomy prank eventually went wrong as people actually believed that it was a legitimate photo of the star. The scientist subsequently apologized after causing confusion among Twitter users. He clarified that it was a “scientists’ joke” and that was his way of having fun. He also reminded everyone to be skeptical and not to believe everything they see.

Twitter’s reaction to the “prank”

While some weren’t amused by the prank, other Twitter users rode along Klein’s prank and created memes out of it. A user even made it into a card game (Calling the attention of Magic: The Gathering fans).

Users even gave the “infamous star” a name. El Chorizo Proximo actually has a nice ring to it.

Some also could not believe that a scientist like Klein has a sense of humor and that he would pull off such a prank.

While some found it funny, others did not take it lightly, especially after discovering that Klein is an actual scientist. “Coming from a scientific research director, it’s quite inappropriate to share this type of thing without specifying from the 1st tweet that it is false information when you know the speed at which [false information can be disseminated],” a user said in a translated tweet.

Screenshot via @alexis2000m on Twitter

Legit comeback

In an interview with media outlet Le Pointe, Klein clarified once again that the Proxima Centauri chorizo photo was really meant as a joke.

“This is the first time I’ve made a joke when I’m more on this network as a figure of scientific authority,” he said in the interview. “The good news is that some immediately understood the deception, but it also took two tweets to clarify.”

“It also illustrates the fact that on this type of social network, fake news is always more successful than real news. I also think that if I hadn’t said it was a James-Webb photo, it wouldn’t have been so successful,” he explained.

After arguments and apologies, Klein shared an image from James Webb Space Telescope and added that it was “REAL this time.” He shared the image of the Cartwheel Galaxy that was recently released by the said space telescope.

Screenshot via @EtienneKlein on Twitter

The James Webb Space Telescope was launched in an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe Spaceport in French Guiana, South America last December. The first images that came from this particular telescope were released by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) last July.


Other POP! stories you might like:

NASA names new space telescope after its first woman executive, Nancy Grace Roman

Google takes you on a ‘virtual field trip’ to the International Space Station

Victor Glover becomes first Black Astronaut to live in space

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