Magnetic compass behavior at the magnetic pole
Name: kate cronn
Would a compass spin around if you were holding it directly
over the magnetic North Pole?
If you held a compass horizontal to the ground at the North
Pole, it would have no preferred direction, and might
spin around in confusion as you suggest.
If you were to hold the compass sideways, however, the compass
would point straight down, toward the North Pole.
You can understand this if you think of the Earth as having a
giant bar magnet inside it. The compass is also a bar magnet.
When two bar magnets come close together, the south
of one attracts the north of the other, and vice versa. So
if you stand at the equator with a compass, the south pole of
the compass, painted red, will point to the North Pole of the
Earth. If you stand at the North Pole, the south pole of
the compass will still be attracted to the North Pole, but
the North Pole is now directly beneath you.
P.S. Where will the compass say north is if you stand at the South Pole?
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Update: June 2012