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Posted by on Mar 12, 2016 in Tell Me Why |

Why Does a Compass Point North?

Why Does a Compass Point North?

There are two important things that make compass needles point the way that they do. The first is the needle and the second is the Earth. If you’ve ever played with bar magnets before, you probably know that magnets will try to line themselves up.

The Earth’s magnet has one ‘end’ really close to the North Pole and the other one really close to the South Pole. So if you have a small magnet that’s allowed to spin in any direction, it will line itself up between the North and South.

The needle in an ordinary pocket compass is a small magnet. It tells direction because the earth acts as a huge magnet. The earth’s magnetic force pulls a compass needle in a north-south direction.

In most places a compass needle does not point exactly north. All compass needles in the Northern Hemisphere point to the north magnetic pole, which is several hundred miles from the true North Pole.

Since the north magnetic pole and the true North Pole are not located in the same place, the farther north you take a compass, the farther from true north it will point.

Content for this question contributed by Keith Smith, resident of North Tonawanda, Niagara County, New York, USA