Scientist Admits 'Space Telescope' Pic He Shared Was Just Sausage

Ryan Ford
A view of the Carina Nebula from the James Webb Space Telescope

Even those of us who aren't exactly space nerds have been entranced by images from NASA's new James Webb Space Telescope. The $10 billion device that took more than two decades to design, build, and put into orbit, debuted its first images on July 12, with much deserved fanfare.

The images from the JWST are as gorgeous as they are informative, giving us a previously unseen view of the universe and already advancing human knowledge.

Unfortunately, someone who should know better decided to have a little fun with the JWST's newfound popularity, but he's hoping it can be a learning experience for everybody.

It's easy to get lost in the images from the James Webb Space Telescope.

They're so sharp and detailed and mesmerizing, they immediately became popular wallpapers and were heavily shared around every social media platform. It's easy to see why.

For once, members of the scientific community had little difficulty explaining their excitement over a breakthrough.

Often, big scientific concepts are a challenge to relate to the public. But when you have images like the one the James Webb Space Telescope sent back to work with, everybody's on the same wavelength: awe and wonder.

Which is why it's unfortunate that a scientist tried to pass off a picture of sausage as an image from the JWST.

In the above tweet, French scientist Etienne Klein captioned the image (translated from French): "Picture of Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to the Sun, located 4.2 light years away from us. It was taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. This level of detail... A new world is unveiled everyday."

It is, of course, actually a slice of sausage — chorizo, to be exact.

The image seemed to fool a lot of people.

Bugs Bunny as a matador fooling a bull with a cape in front of an anvil
Giphy | Looney Tunes

Coming from an esteemed scientist — Klein is a physicist and director at France's Alternative Energies and Atomic Energies Commission — the tweet received thousands of likes. Mind you, it's impossible to know how many of them saw through the image and how many took it seriously.

But, in subsequent tweets, Klein tried to walk it all back.

Christopher Walken saying "I didn't mean it that way"
Giphy | Amazon Prime Video

Saying that he'd shared the sausage image as a "form of amusement," Klein suggested that we should all take it as a learning experience.

"Well, when it's time for the aperitif, cognitive biases seem to have a field day," he tweeted. "Beware, then, of them. According to contemporary cosmology, no object belonging to Spanish charcuterie exists anywhere but on Earth."

Klein argued that even information from sources of authority should be treated with skepticism.

Dana Scully in 'X-Files' sighing skeptically
Giphy |

"In view of some comments, I feel compelled to clarify that this tweet showing an alleged snapshot of Proxima Centauri was a form of amusement," Klein tweeted. "Let us learn to be wary of arguments from authority as much as of the spontaneous eloquence of certain images."

Klein also admitted that he had attributed the image to the JWST on purpose.

Doctor Who saying "Because I'm clever"
Giphy |

In an interview with Le Point, Klein said that "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."

However, some in the scientific community didn't see the fun or the lesson in Klein's tweet.

At a time when misinformation, disinformation, and fake news are rampant on the internet, many feel that trustworthy sources of information and scientific authorities can't afford stunts like Klein's, despite the intent.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!