National Geographic : 1963 Feb
"Well, we can't make them twinkle," says Dr. Joseph M. Chamberlain, Planetarium Chairman, "but no one seems to notice." The Hayden Planetarium-the museum's Department of Astronomy-is a museum in itself. In its circular halls the visitor finds a weather station recording data from rooftop instruments; a 45 1 /2-foot Viking rocket; and "blacklight" murals depicting sunspots, spi ral nebulae, and other celestial phenomena. Children Try to Budge a Meteorite Among the most popular exhibits are five scales that register "Your Weight on Other Worlds." A dieter steps off Mars with a satis fied smile, having dwindled effortlessly from 160 to 60 pounds. Children bounce resolutely on the steel platform of another scale, their insignificant weight ignored by a needle that stands at 34 tons, 85 pounds. The platform supports the dense, black mass of Ahnighito, largest meteorite "in captivity." Ahnighito-"The Tent" to Eskimos-came to the museum in 1897, drawn by 30 horses. Robert E. Peary spent three Arctic seasons wresting this mass of nickel-iron and two smaller fragments from the shores of Cape York in northwestern Greenland. The lifeless lump from space gives visitors little hint of the toil and peril it cost to bring it here. In the hold of Peary's ship Hope, it rendered compasses useless amid hazardous straits and a fierce Arctic storm. Museum specimens seldom disclose the ex citing, the poignant, the humorous tales be hind them. That massive elephant skeleton in the Hall of the Biology of Mammals, for ex ample: In life, an estimated million young sters rode on its broad back. Jumbo, the larg est elephant ever brought to the United States alive, earned its owner, P. T. Barnum, nearly $2,000,000 before an unscheduled freight train ended its circus career in 1885 in Ontario, Canada. Jumbo lives on as mas cot of Tufts University in Medford, Massa chusetts, where the stuffed skin, a gift of Barnum himself, is in the school's museum. Or the thoughtful-looking chimpanzee in the Hall of the Biology of Primates. Her name was Meshie (page 256). Dr. Harry D. Raven, an anatomist, brought her from Africa as an infant and raised her with his own children.