James Webb Space Telescope: Chorizo Slice Is Stand-In for Distant Star

james webb space telescope chorizo

Getty A general view of the broadcast of NASA's first images from James Webb Space Telescope to screens in Picadilly Circus on July 12, 2022 in London, England.

A slice of chorizo became famous after French scientist Etienne Klein posted the spicy piece of meat on social media, claiming it was a distant star captured in images taken by the James Webb space telescope.

Klein said in the post that the image showed Proxima Centauri, which is the closest star to the sun. He later said it was intended as a joke and apologized.

He posted the image July 31, 2022, on Twitter, gaining more than 17,000 likes and more than 1,500 retweets by the afternoon of August 6. The post remained live at the time.

“Photo of Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun, located 4.2 light years from us,” he wrote in a translation of the post, which originally appeared in French. “She was taken by the JWST. This level of detail… A new world is revealed day after day.”

Soon after, he then wrote about the post’s true meaning, which was meant to be a commentary on cognitive bias.

“Well, when it’s time for the aperitif, cognitive biases seem to have a field day… Beware, then, of them. According to contemporary cosmology, no object belonging to Spanish charcuterie exists anywhere but on Earth,” he wrote in an English translation.

He further explained his post, saying he posted the image for entertainment value.

“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. Let us learn to be wary of arguments from authority as much as of the spontaneous eloquence of certain images…,” the English translation said.

A few days later, he posted an apology, saying his post was not intended as a hoax. He shared an article from French publication Le Point on August 3, 2022, saying his post was intended as commentary about how easily a person can be mislead on social media, and said he had no intention of actually misleading his followers.

NASA Shared Real Images From the James Webb Space Telescope, Which Showed the Cartwheel Galaxy

The James Webb space telescope was making news for other reasons in August 2022, when it captured images of the Cartwheel Galaxy shared by NASA.

“Time to reinvent the wheel,” the NASA Webb Telescope Twitter page wrote August 2, 2022. “Here’s the Cartwheel Galaxy in a whole new light — as a composite image from 2 instruments on the Webb telescope. Webb uniquely offers not just a snapshot of the galaxy’s current state, but also a peek into its past & future.”

A NASA article explained that the new images shed new light on star formation and black holes.

NASA reported:

Its appearance, much like that of the wheel of a wagon, is the result of an intense event – a high-speed collision between a large spiral galaxy and a smaller galaxy not visible in this image. Collisions of galactic proportions cause a cascade of different, smaller events between the galaxies involved; the Cartwheel is no exception.

The collision most notably affected the galaxy’s shape and structure. The Cartwheel Galaxy sports two rings — a bright inner ring and a surrounding, colorful ring. These two rings expand outwards from the center of the collision, like ripples in a pond after a stone is tossed into it. Because of these distinctive features, astronomers call this a “ring galaxy,” a structure less common than spiral galaxies like our Milky Way.

The galaxy is about 500 million light years away. It is located in the Sculptor constellation.

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