French Physicist’s Beautiful Proxima Centauri Photo Turns Out to Be a Piece of Chorizo

Earlier this week, French physicist Etienne Klein appeared to post a photo of Proxima Centauri, the closest star to ours, some 4.2 light-years away. The photo was beautiful and quickly got thousands of likes.

There was only one problem: the photo was really just a bit of chorizo.

As translated by IGN, Klein originally posted the photo with the caption: “The closest photo of Proxima Centauri, the star closest to the Sun, is 4.2 light-years from us. It was taken by the [James Webb Space Telescope]. This level of detail … a new world is revealed every day.”

It soon turned out that the photo was fake; a scientist’s joke.

“Well, when it comes time for aperitif, cognitive biases seem to be having a field day, so watch out for them,” Klein tweeted. “According to contemporary cosmology, nowhere else than on Earth does an object that belongs to the Spanish cured meats exists.”

He then warned against online misinformation.

“On seeing certain comments, I feel compelled to specify that the tweet with an alleged snapshot of Proxima Centauri was a form of entertainment. After that, we must be wary of arguments from authority as well as the spontaneous eloquence of certain images.”

If Klein wanted to draw attention to disinformation, the mission was successful. The tweet was reported in several major publications around the world and continues to circulate online.

Fortunately, there are plenty of real photos from the James Webb Space Telescope, which successfully deployed on January 24. The telescope’s mission is to see objects that are too far away and faint for the Hubble Space Telescope. The first image was tweeted by President Biden and has since returned other images as well.

For more space coverage, read how Earth recently set a new speed record, as well as the growing space tourism industry.

Leave a Comment