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This picture shows where Earth's North Magnetic Pole is. It also shows Earth's geographic North Pole. The two poles are not in the same place.
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Original artwork by Windows to the Universe staff (Randy Russell).

Earth's North Magnetic Pole

Earth has a magnetic field with a north pole and a south pole. Earth's magnetic field is pretty much like the magnetic field around a bar magnet. Earth's North Magnetic Pole (NMP) is not in the same place as the geographic North Pole. The NMP is off the northern coast of Canada. That is several hundred kilometers (miles) from the geographic North Pole.

Earth's magnetic poles move around. The NMP moved about 1,100 km (684 miles) during the 20th century.

Compass needles point towards the NMP. Since the NMP is pretty close to the geographic North Pole, people have used compasses to find their way around for many, many years.

Some kinds of radiation in space flow along magnetic fields. Earth's magnetic field steers these particles towards Earth's magnetic poles. When the particles blast into our atmosphere, they make gases in the atmosphere glow. That's what causes the beautiful Northern Lights!

Last modified April 17, 2009 by Randy Russell.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA