If ever you want to go toAntarctica, to see the South Pole, the first thing you take with you on a trip will be a compass. Well, some warm clothes. However, did you know that compasses can not only lead you to the magnetic pole, but also confuse you, forcing you to get lost next to your practically achieved goal? How do compasses work and why can’t they be trusted, being near the magnetic pole?
What is a compass and how does it work?
Compass is an ancient navigation device thatwas coined in China in the second millennium BC. The first compasses were pieces of magnetized metal that were in a vessel with water and were fixed in it using a special plank of wood. It is known that from China, compasses gradually migrated to the Arab world, where they were used when traveling through deserts, and several centuries later the device was able to first get to Europe.
See also: What happens if the magnetic field disappears?
Due to the fact that the Earth’s magnetic field is constantlyattracts the magnetized end of the compass to the North Pole, device users can always know which side the magnetic north lies in. At the same time, you may be very surprised to learn that compasses are able to behave more than strange if they are close to the South Pole of the planet.
Well, as you know, planet Earth has bothgeographical and magnetic poles. The geographic North and South poles crown the opposite ends of the central magnetic axis of the planet along which the Earth rotates. At the same time, the position of the North and South magnetic poles is not fixed, and the distance from them to the corresponding geographical poles can vary by several thousand kilometers.
What is the Earth’s magnetic field?
The magnetic field of the planet isa special force field that has a certain effect on electric charges. So, it is precisely its presence that helps the Earth to fight against ionizing particles of the solar wind that are destructive for all living things, without which life in its familiar form simply could not exist. In addition, such a need drastically reduces the number of potentially inhabited exoplanets that will be available for detailed study in the future.
It is known that the Earth’s magnetic field arises inAs a result of the planet’s constant rotation, which leads to the boiling of a viscous glandular fluid in its core, due to which the planet’s magnetic poles are gradually shifted in response to the nature of motion and the speed of the interplanetary fluid.
Due to the fact that the Earth’s magnetic field is notlocated along the straight lines leading from the North Pole to the South, as they move to the South Pole, the magnetic lines of the field will gradually bend in order to eventually get directly underground. Such an unusual feature entails a rather unpleasant effect, misleading any brave traveler who decided to find the cherished South Pole of the planet alone: the compass needle simply indicates the wrong direction and leads the grief-traveler away from the desired target.
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Because compasses are often differentwith unpredictable behavior near the magnetic North and South poles, polar researchers are increasingly using GPS technology to find the right direction to the north. Therefore, if one day you become eager to visit Antarctica and the South Pole, we advise you to purchase a high-quality GPS navigator, and leave the good old compass for travel to the equator, because only there all the lines of the planet’s magnetic field are completely horizontal and parallel to the planet’s surface.