Is the earth a magnet 1

Attractive: Magnetic poles

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Each magnetic field has a north and a south pole. The magnetic forces are strongest at these two points.

But be careful: These magnetic poles are not to be confused with the north and south poles on the world map, which are also called geographical poles. The location of these geographic poles is determined by the earth's axis around which the earth rotates.

But back to the magnetic poles:
They are in different places than the geographic poles. Where they lie determines the magnetic field, which stretches in oval lines around the earth. Since the magnetic field is constantly changing, the position of the magnetic poles also changes constantly.

This is because there is liquid iron in the interior of the earth and it is always in motion. This changes the earth's magnetic field and the poles move - about one kilometer per week at the moment. But that is only a tiny bit in relation to the enormous size of the earth.

North is not just north

The magnetic pole, which is close to the North Pole, is not a "North Pole" according to physical rules. Because in physics, magnetic poles are not named after the direction of the compass, but after the directions of the magnetic field lines - they have a direction of travel.

Exactly where the lines lead vertically into the magnet - i.e. the earth - is the physical south pole. And where they lead out, the north pole of the earth's magnetic field. In the case of the earth, this is exactly the opposite of the geographic poles.

But what does the magnetic field mean for the earth?

It is like a protective shield that protects living beings on earth from the solar wind. These tiny electrically charged particles are deflected by the magnetic field. They can only sometimes be seen in the far north - as northern lights.

At the same time, the magnetic field serves as a guide. Migratory birds and whales use the earth's magnetic field for orientation.

But people too: they have been using a compass for centuries to find the right way.

The magnetic pointer in the compass always points north - but not in the direction of the geographic north pole, but in the direction of the north magnetic pole.

So if you rely on a compass, you should keep this difference in mind. It is also important at what point on earth someone looks at the compass: the closer the magnetic pole, the less precise the display on the compass becomes.

Did you know?

The earth's magnetic field has not always been as constant as we know it today. In the course of the earth's history it has also turned around. Back then, a compass needle would have pointed south, not north. That can happen again in the distant future.