Etienne Klein, a celebrated physicist and director at France's Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission tweeted a picture last week of what he claimed to be Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun.
He claimed that the photo was taken by the recently deployed James Webb Space Telescope.
Photo de Proxima du Centaure, l’étoile la plus proche du Soleil, située à 4,2 année-lumière de nous.— Etienne KLEIN (@EtienneKlein) July 31, 2022
Elle a été prise par le JWST.
Ce niveau de détails… Un nouveau monde se dévoile jour après jour. pic.twitter.com/88UBbHDQ7Z
In a bizarre turn of events however, Mr Klein later tweeted that the picture was not in fact a picture of Proxima Centauri, but a picture of a slice of chorizo, a type of Spanish sausage.
"Well, when it's cocktail hour, cognitive bias seem to find plenty to enjoy... Beware of it. According to contemporary cosmology, no object related to Spanish charcuterie exists anywhere else other than on Earth."
Mr Klein, while apologising for his prank, explained that his intention was to make people aware of fake images circulating on the internet. He said he did so to "urge caution regarding images that seem to speak for themselves."
In a bid to make amends, Mr Klein later tweeted a real picture of the Cartwheel galaxy.