Rosetta scientist's tearful apology over 'ShirtGate'

A scientist on the Rosetta space probe project has made a tearful apology after a shirt he wore for media interviews featuring cartoon images of scantily clad women sparked an Internet backlash.

Physicist Matt Taylor, when asked to talk about data being collected by the probe during a press briefing on Friday, kicked off his reply with an apology for the shirt, which had caused offence as science and technology is still viewed by many as a male-dominated field.

"The shirt I wore this week, I made a big mistake and I offended many people and I am very sorry about this," says a visibly upset Taylor, who then pauses to wipe his eyes as a male colleague pats him on the shoulder.

He then takes a breath and delivers his answer to the data question.

The decade-long Rosetta Project has involved landing a 100kg washing-machine-sized probe - Philae - on a comet travelling at at 18 kilometres per second through space 510 million kilometres away from Earth.

But it was Taylor's shirt in interviews which captured the gaze of many an angry Netizen, spawning the hashtags #ShirtGate and #ShirtStorm and a burst of spoof images.

"Women are toooootally welcome in our community, just ask the dude in this shirt," tweeted a sarcastic female tech journalist, who then received abusive tweets in response, according to a BBC report.

"For clarity -- No, the shirt is not "cool" or acceptable in a professional setting - on an engineer, scientist, or anyone," tweeted another user.

Pressure mounted on Taylor to apologise, says the BBC, while others lightened the mood by spoofing the photo.

"Fixed it," claimed one tweeter, who posted a new image showing famous female scientists photoshopped onto the shirt.

The scientist wasn't without his sympathisers, however, says the BBC.

"Poor Dr Matt Taylor. He landed on a comet and the only thing people seem to talk about are his tattoos and his shirt," wrote one.