The next project for our Apologia Astronomy lesson, was making a compass. It is the last project on our lesson about planet Earth and tied in with the last section that we read about, “Perfect Magnetosphere”. What is a “Magnetosphere”? A magnetosphere is a huge area of magnetic power that is around Earth.
The Earth has a huge magnetic field that is made in the outer core of the earth. This magnetic field pulls harmful particles away from the earth. The harmful particles is called a solar wind. Without this magnetic field, we wouldn’t be able to survive on Earth. Isn’t that amazing?
The magnetosphere that is around the earth actually blocks some of the solar winds that come from the sun. The solar winds that are able to get through are mostly around the North and South Poles. As they are traveling past the North and South Poles, they start running into gases in the earth’s atmosphere. This is where those beautiful lights that are called “auroras” come from!
Now on to the fun part of this lesson, the project of making a compass! The supplies for this project that you will need is a cork, permanent marker, a lid from a yogurt or sour cream container, a sewing needle and a magnet (needs to be a strong magnet).
What you do first is label the lid with (N)orth, (S)outh, (E)ast, (W)est. Then you run the needle over the top of the magnet several times, making sure that you move the needle in the same direction. Then you will cut off a little piece of cork and put it in the middle of the needle.
Then you will fill the lid to the very top with water. You will then put the cork and needle in the lid so that the needle is floating roughly parallel to the surface of the water. Then watch what happens! Turn the compass and you will notice that the needle continues pointing in the same direction.
Regardless of how you turn the compass, one end of the needle will always point to the north and the other end to the south. Yes, this really works!
How does this work? Since you turned the needle into a magnet by running it over the magnet, it is affected by the Earth’s magnetic field!
My kids had a really fun time with this project. Well I have to admit, I did too! We can’t wait to begin the next lesson on the Moon!
Have you done any neat science projects or activities? I would love for you to share them with us!