Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Measuring Earth's Magnetic Anomalies
Name: Zach H.
Status: Student
Grade: 9-12
Location: Texas
Country: United States
Date: January 2007

How can you make observations of local anomalies in the earth's magnetic field?

One needs a magnetometer. I have seen plans for simple magnetometers in Scientific American and similar publications. Popular electronic and mechanical magazines as well as student/teacher science magazines are also good places research if you want to make one for yourself. I just entered "magnetometer plans" into my favorite search engine and got a number of hits.

Variations in the earth's field will occur both during the day if the sensor is not moved, or from place to place when you move the magnetometer around the countryside.

Bob Avakian
Oklahoma State University

Earth scientists, geologists, etc. measure the earth's magnetic field with a magnetometer, which is fundamentally a compass mounted on pivots so that measures the field's direction at a given point, that is at a given longitude, latitude, altitude. The "strength" of the field is determined from the "strength" of the pull on the sensor at a given point. In modern instruments the sensors are electronic of course, but the principles are the same. The results are then superimposed on a map using computer software (and probably a GPS). There are "physics lab" units available from science suppliers, such as Pasco Inc., but I do not know how easy it would be to actually make a map with that demonstration apparatus.

Vince Calder

Click here to return to the Environmental and Earth Science Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory