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Where IS North?

Figure from experiment 3 from Earth Science with Vernier


It depends. Do you mean geographic north or magnetic north? The geographic (true) north pole is the point at 90° N latitude. It is aligned with the rotational axis of the Earth. The Earth is surrounded by a magnetic field with a north and south magnetic pole. The magnetic north pole is the point to which a compass needle points. It is currently in northern Canada, but moves at an average rate of 15 km per year due to complex fluid motion in the outer core of Earth. Depending on your location, the difference between magnetic north and geographic north, called magnetic declination, can range from 0° to 30°.

In Part I of this experiment, you will measure the magnetic field of the Earth. You will use this data to determine magnetic north. Knowing the direction of true north, you will calculate the magnetic declination at your location. In Part II you will measure the magnetic inclination of your location.


In this experiment, you will

  • Use a Magnetic Field Sensor to measure the magnetic field of the Earth.
  • Calculate magnetic declination for your location.
  • Measure the magnetic inclination of your location.

Sensors and Equipment

This experiment requires each of the following Vernier sensors and equipment (unless otherwise noted):

Additional Requirements

You may also need an interface and software for data collection. What do I need for data collection?

Download Experiment Preview

The student-version preview includes:

  • Step-by-step instructions for computer-based data collection
  • List of materials and equipment

Note: The experiment preview of the computer edition does not include essential teacher information, safety tips, or sample data. Instructions for Logger Pro and other software (such as LabQuest App or TI handheld software, where available) are on the CD that accompanies the book. We strongly recommend that you purchase the book before performing experiments.

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Standards Correlations

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Experiment 3 from Earth Science with Vernier Lab Book

<em>Earth Science with Vernier</em> book cover

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Included in the Lab Book

Vernier lab books include a CD with word-processing files of the student instructions, essential teacher information, suggested answers, sample data and graphs, and more.

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