A magnetic field is the region around a magnet where a force acts on another magnet or on a magnetic material.
A magnetic field is invisible, but it can be detected using a magnetic compass. A compass contains a small bar magnet on a pivot so that it can rotate. The compass needle points in the direction of the Earth’s magnetic field, or the magnetic field of a magnet.
Magnetic fields can be mapped out using small plotting compasses:
The needle of a plotting compass points to the south pole of the magnet.
The behaviour of a compass shows that the Earth has a magnetic field. Scientists believe that this field is produced by convection currents in the Earth’s core, which is made from iron and nickel. When a plotting compass is placed in the Earth’s magnetic field, the north pole of the compass will line up with the Earth’s magnetic field lines and point to magnetic south.
The diagram shows the magnetic field around a bar magnet.
The diagram shows these key features: