# How does a compass work?

A compass is a navigational tool that has been used for centuries to help people find their way. It’s a simple device that is based on the principles of magnetism, and it remains an essential tool for modern-day hikers and sailors. In this article, we’ll explore how a compass works and how it can be used to navigate.

### Magnetism and the Compass

The key to understanding how a compass works is to understand the nature of magnetism. Magnetism is a force that is created by the motion of electric charges, and it has both attractive and repulsive properties. When a bar magnet is suspended so that it can rotate freely, it will always align itself with the Earth’s magnetic field. This is the basic principle behind the compass.

### The Compass Needle

A compass needle is made from a magnetized material, such as steel, and it is balanced on a pivot point so that it can rotate freely. When the compass is held horizontally, the needle will always align itself with the Earth’s magnetic field, with one end of the needle pointing towards magnetic north and the other end pointing towards magnetic south. This property of the compass needle makes it an incredibly useful tool for navigation.

### Using a Compass for Navigation

To use a compass for navigation, you must first orient the compass correctly. This means holding the compass level and flat, and then turning the compass dial until the magnetic needle is aligned with the orienting arrow. Once the compass is aligned, you can use it to take a bearing on a landmark, such as a hill or a tree, and then use that bearing to navigate towards your destination.

It’s important to note that magnetic north is not the same as true north, which is the direction towards the Earth’s geographic North Pole. The difference between the two is known as magnetic declination, and it varies depending on your location. To navigate accurately, you must account for magnetic declination and adjust your compass bearings accordingly.

A compass is a simple but incredibly useful tool for navigation. By aligning itself with the Earth’s magnetic field, the compass needle can help you find your way even in the most remote and unfamiliar terrain. Whether you’re hiking in the mountains or sailing across the ocean, a compass is an essential piece of equipment that can help keep you safe and on course.