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Force of Magnetism - Windows to the Universe

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With Explore the Planets, investigate the planets, their moons, and understand the processes that shape them. By G. Jeffrey Taylor, Ph.D. See our DVD collection.

The Force of Magnetism

You may ask, how does the force of Magnetism work? The force of magnetism is directed from one pole to another. A pole can be described as the locus, or point, where lines of magnetic force converge.

Most simple magnets have two poles (that makes them "di-poles"), as shown in this picture. Planets can have more than two poles. The magnetic field "lines" illustrate where the force of magnetism is, and whether it is stronger (red) or weaker (blue).


This is an illustration of how magnetism works.
Click on images for full size version (40K GIF)
For simple magnets, the force of magnetism works in the following way: When two magnets are brought together, the force will attract the two magnets together if the poles are opposite, that is if the pole of the first magnet is positive and the pole of the second magnet is negative. If that condition is true, the two magnets will be "forced" to stick together.
If two magnets of the same polarity are brought together, the force of magnetism will repel the two magnets from each other, and they cannot be made to stick together.

More on Magnetism

Last modified March 2, 2001 by Jennifer Bergman.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF