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# Which way does a compass point in space?

Question #33907. Asked by PUZZLER. (May 18 03 9:29 AM)

Kainantu

There is one problem with the magnetic compass: It is not always accurate, especially when near metal. At the North and South Poles such compasses do not work at all. In the early 1900s, Elmer Sperry invented the gyrocompass. The gyrocompass is not a magnetic compass and is not affected by any of the factors that create problems for a magnetic compass. A gyrocompass always points north. It doesn't matter if you're in outer space, at the bottom of the ocean under the North Pole in a submarine, or upside down in an {airplane;} it always points north.
http://www.looklearnanddo.com/kids/history/history_compasses.html

 May 18 03, 10:34 AM
Fosse4

Nice one Puzzler - I'd say the North pole pointer would point to the nearest large mass object - EG the nearer an object got to the moon from the earth the pointer would swing from pointing to the earth to point to the moon.

 May 18 03, 8:58 PM
greencavalier

But, Fosse4, a compass aligns itself with the magnetic field, whatever that may be, wherever it is. I don't think the moon has a magnetic field, so it would not affect a compass. (Venus does not have a magnetic field - I know that because my son has just finished a school report on it! )

As far as I know the Earth is the only magnetised planet... so as the compass got further away from earth and the magnetic field weakened I guess the needle would just drift about.

I don't know how gyroscopic compasses work.

 May 18 03, 9:28 PM
Gnomon

Gyroscopic compasses do not depend on magnetism at all. They are set to point to the North Star when they are made and continue to do so as long as they are powered. Even in local space, within the solar system, they will continue to point to Earth's North Star.

I believe the Sun and Jupiter both have magnetic fields. The compass would point to the Sun's North pole in most of the solar system if it was sensitive enough.

 May 19 03, 7:45 AM