How Does a Compass Work?

Science activity for students: 1st to 6th grades. When it comes to the issue of which instrument that can aid direction and navigation, there is no other tool that can be mentioned other than a compass. Its importance is so obvious and that is why most people have been making use of magnetic compass to navigate for a period of over 900 years. This means that they must have been very reliable in the process of having to locate directions and that is why ships mostly make use of it.

What is a compass?
A compass is simply a tool which shows or displays directions based on information of the geographical location that is available to it. The diagram that it uses is known as a compass rose. In this diagram or map, the North, South, East as well as West are displayed.

How does it work?
Compass can work in so many ways of which some of them will be stated and explained below for your understanding. You will need a compass needle for this one.

Understand directions
This is perhaps that very first thing that you have to learn if you want to experience how a compass truly works. These directions are:

• The north
• The south
• The east
• And west

The diagram above is an example of the directions that you will need to learn if you want to know how a compass does work. Make sure that you don’t misplace these directions that have been stated because that is how they are supposed to be placed. At least you will need a good knowledge of these directions and how to use your compass needle.

Using your compass needle
As you can see from the above diagram, you will need your compass needle which is always in two colours (black and red) to be at the middle of the direction circle. The red is always pointing towards the north.

Now it is possible that you have decided not to go North for some reasons. There is something that is called compass housing. This is what will enable you change directions. For instance; it is possible that you have decided to go Northwest, all you will have to do is direct the compass needle to the compass housing which says “Northwest”.

This may seem confusing at the initial time when you are just starting out but as time goes on you will be able to understand how it works. This will mean constant practice and observation.

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