Detecting magnetic fields
Magnetic field lines can also 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:
- Place the plotting compass near the magnet on a piece of paper.
- Mark the direction the compass needle points.
- Move the plotting compass to many different positions in the magnetic field, marking the needle direction each time
The needle of a plotting compass points to the south pole of the magnet.
Drawing magnetic field diagrams
The diagram shows the magnetic field around a bar magnet.
The diagram shows these key features:
- magnetic field lines never cross each other;
- the closer the lines are together, the stronger the magnetic field – magnets are strongest at the poles;
- the lines have arrowheads to show the direction of the magnetic field;
- the direction of a magnetic field at a point is the direction of the force on a north pole at that point;
- magnetic field lines point from the north pole of the magnet to its south pole.
Two bar magnets
The magnetic field pattern when two magnets are used is shown in this diagram.
Uniform magnetic field
When magnetic field lines are parallel and the same distance apart from each other, we say that the magnetic field is uniform. This is shown in the diagram: