Which Direction Would a Magnetic Compass Point in Space?

This question was submitted by an Anonymous reader

It is well known that a magnetic compass would always point to the magnetic north pole of any magnetic field around it. When you are on the earth, the compass always points to the earth’s magnetic North Pole, due to the earth’s magnetic field, as the entire planet acts as one giant magnet.

When you take the magnetic compass to the earth’s lower earth orbit, it would still point to the magnetic North Pole of the earth, as it can still sense the earth’s magnetic field. When you go further away from the earth’s magnetic field, the sun’s magnetic field would influence the compass and it would start pointing to the sun’s magnetic North Pole. And when you use the compass on a different planet, it would point to the planet’s magnetic North Pole.

But when you travel far away from the solar system to a point in space where there is no magnetic field, the compass won’t be pointing to any specific directions (Of course, it will be pointing to a direction where it finally sensed a magnetic North Pole, before reaching the point). At that point, the compass is just an object floating besides you.

But if there are any ferromagnetic materials like Iron and nickel around, the magnetic compass would align its pointer in their direction.

This post was first published on December 13, 2014.


Karthikeyan KC

Aeronautical engineer, dev, science fiction author, gamer, and an explorer. I am the creator of Geekswipe. I love writing about physics, aerospace, astronomy, and python. I created Swyde. Currently working on Arclind Mindspace.

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1 Response

  1. So what do they use in space if magnetic compasses are useless?