A Space Hoax Involving A Spanish Sausage Has The Internet In Stitches

Scientists may not get excited by the same stuff regular people do. But when something happens to get them going, they do what anyone would do: go on social media to share what they've learned. 

Such was the case with French scientist Etienne Klein took to Twitter to share what he considered an exciting find: a glowing red ball against a black background, writing (via Google Translate): "Photo of Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun, located 4.2 light years from us. She was taken by the JWST [James Webb Space Telescope] This level of detail ... A new world is revealed day after day."

Now, Klein isn't a garden-variety science geek. He's known in his home country as the Director of the Research Laboratory for Material Science at the CEA, or the French Atomic Energy Commission. And his tweet picked up nearly 12,000 likes — before he came clean about the fact that his groundbreaking photo was actually a slice of Spanish chorizo photographed against a black background, per ABC.

Klein eventually came clean about his prank

It's not like someone caught on to French scientist Etienne Klein's prank, though. Per RFI, days after his post, Klein came forward to admit that, in fact, his photo was a stylized piece of charcuterie. He then tweeted: "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...." He also described the image as "a scientist's joke."

One of Klein's Twitter followers huffed, per ABC: "Coming from a scientific research director, it's quite inappropriate to share this type of thing." But another social media user didn't seem to agree, saying: "Etienne Klein, we need at least a few reliable reference people in this world, and a certain number of us have decided that you are one of them. So not too many deli jokes, the complexity of the universe stands on its own."