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Name: Jane
Status: N/A
Age: 7
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: Sunday, September 15, 2002


Question:
What would the needle of a compass do in space? Would there be a magnetic force to attract it?


Replies:
Jane,

For a compass to work, it must be near a magnet. The compass will point toward the north pole of that magnet. Every magnet has a north pole and a south pole. A compass works on the Earth because the Earth is truly a giant magnet. If you were near something magnetic, maybe an asteroid with a lot of metal in it, the compass would point toward the magnetic asteroid's north pole. If you were not near something magnetic, the compass would do nothing.

Dr. Ken Mellendorf
Physics Instructor
Illinois Central College


Jane

The needle would point to any nearby metal to which it could be attracted -- iron (steel) nickel, or cobalt. Absent such attractors, and anything else to which the needle might be attracted, the needle would not point in any particular direction.

Regards,
ProfHoff 482



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