SPACE – Vegetarians, better abstain. Since the beginning of July, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has started sending its first images from the far reaches of the universe. The very first photo was unveiled on July 11 by Joe Biden and features “the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 as it existed 4.6 billion years ago.”
Enough to travel in time and space from the small planet Earth but also to “feed” and “pique” everyone’s curiosity for the most recent scientific discoveries. Even if it means sometimes being deceived by a few bright colors and a well-adjusted contrast…
In any case, this is the trick played on many Internet users by physicist Étienne Klein, research director at the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). On his Twitter account, the scientist shared an image this Sunday, July 31, presenting a “photo of Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun, located 4.2 light years from us”.
He specifies in his tweet that the image was taken by the James Webb space telescope and marvels: “This level of detail… A new world is revealed day after day”.
Photo of Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun, located 4.2 light years from us. She was taken… https://t.co/5n8VNVh4xF
— Etienne KLEIN (@EtienneKlein)
A cliché that is actually too “beautiful” to be true, except perhaps for the aperitif… After having captivated a certain number of Internet users, Étienne Klein quickly made things clear: it is in no way a question of an image of Proxima Centauri, but a simple slice of chorizo on a black background.
” According to contemporary cosmology, no object belonging to Spanish charcuterie exists anywhere but on Earth. “, he writes first before adding: “ I feel compelled to clarify that this tweet showing an alleged snapshot of Proxima Centauri was a form of amusement. Let’s learn to be wary of arguments from authority as much as the spontaneous eloquence of certain images… “.
Contacted by The HuffPostEtienne Klein explains that his tweets had above all an educational aim. ” This is the first time I’ve made a joke when I’m more on this network as a figure of scientific authority. 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 if I hadn’t said it was a picture of James Webb it wouldn’t have been so successful. “, he details.
A number of internet users liked the tune, when others didn’t hesitate to go one better, as you can see below with what is very clearly the image of a pitted olive.
@EtienneKlein @ebothorel What about this incredible eclipse on Proxima Centauri B, the closest known exoplanet… https://t.co/bo69MaDXws
— ＼Ｏ／ (@CharlieBismuth)
A reverse search on Google shows that the photo presenting a slice of chorizo as a celestial object is not new and that it was notably taken up in 2018, this time presented as a lunar eclipse for example.
As for the real star Proxima Centauri, a red dwarf, this is what it looks like, as you can see in the image below taken by the Hubble Telescope, and provided by the European Southern Observatory. This is the star shown at the bottom right.
Y. BELETSKY (LCO)/ESO/ESA/NASA/M/AFP
Images provided by ESO showing an image of Proxima Centauri (bottom right), and Alpha Centauri, bottom left, taken by the Hubble Telescope.
Beware of overly beautiful images.
Nevertheless, Etienne Klein’s quip remains salutary in more ways than one. With the launch of James Webb, many Internet users are improvising or pretending to be space specialists, thereby spreading false information or images on social networks.
For example, a photo showing a “vacuum” in space circulated a lot this Monday on Twitter. The account presenting itself as a popularizer assured that it would be necessary to travel more than 750 million years in it before crossing something there. The image in question in fact presented the Barnard 68 molecular cloud, the gas of which has the property of absorbing almost all the light emitted by the stars which surround it. What give a false impression of emptiness.
JWST is observing this dark region of space 500 light years away (Barnard 68) right now + over the next 2 hours. It’s… https://t.co/Lr6YhGLllS
— Dr. James O’Donoghue (@physicsJ)
Regarding the James Webb Space Telescope, if you want to know everything about the first images, The HuffPost had devoted a very complete article to it in July, and available below.
See also on The HuffPost: We’ve Never Seen Such a Black Hole