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published by the PhET
In this simulation, students move a virtual compass around a bar magnet to predict the magnetic field for different locations around the magnet. Use the magnetic field meter to figure out how field strength is related to distance. Next, click to superimpose Planet Earth over the bar magnet and see the surprising results in the orientation of the poles! (The Earth's magnetic north is located near the South Pole.) This model is designed to promote understanding of the Earth as a giant magnet that follows the rules governing magnetic fields. The compass needle points to magnetic north from whatever position it is located in the field. The simulation can be adapted well for use in middle school. For older students, the field meter allows for fairly accurate measurements of magnetic field strength measured in G.

Note to Users: As of 3/1/22 this simulation had not yet been converted to HTML5. The version available is a Ready-To-Run Java application by CheerpJ. It opens in Chrome, Edge, and Safari

This resource is part of a large collection of simulations developed by the Physics Education Technology project (PhET).

Please note that this resource requires at least version 1.5 of Java.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Electricity & Magnetism
- Magnetic Fields and Forces
= Interacting Magnets
= Magnetic Fields
- Middle School
- High School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Informal Education
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Interactive Simulation
Intended Users Formats Ratings
- Learners
- General Publics
- application/java
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Access Rights:
Free access
This material is released under a GNU General Public License Version 2 license. Additional information is available.
Rights Holder:
PHET and University of Colorado
Earth's magnetic field, bar magnet, compass, field direction, field strength, magnetic field, magnetism simulation, polarity
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created January 23, 2011 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
February 19, 2022 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
September 1, 2010
Other Collections:

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4G. Forces of Nature
  • 9-12: 4G/H7. Electric currents in the earth's interior give the earth an extensive magnetic field, which we detect from the orientation of compass needles.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 6-8: 11B/M1. Models are often used to think about processes that happen too slowly, too quickly, or on too small a scale to observe directly. They are also used for processes that are too vast, too complex, or too dangerous to study.
  • 6-8: 11B/M4. Simulations are often useful in modeling events and processes.
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Record Link
AIP Format
, Version 1.02 (PhET, Boulder, 2008), WWW Document, (
PhET Simulation: Magnet and Compass, Version 1.02 (PhET, Boulder, 2008), <>.
APA Format
PhET Simulation: Magnet and Compass. (2010, September 1). Retrieved July 13, 2024, from PhET:
Chicago Format
PhET. PhET Simulation: Magnet and Compass. Boulder: PhET, September 1, 2010. (accessed 13 July 2024).
MLA Format
PhET Simulation: Magnet and Compass. Vers. 1.02. Boulder: PhET, 2008. 1 Sep. 2010. 13 July 2024 <>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {PhET Simulation: Magnet and Compass}, Publisher = {PhET}, Volume = {2024}, Number = {13 July 2024}, Month = {September 1, 2010}, Year = {2008} }
Refer Export Format

%T PhET Simulation: Magnet and Compass %D September 1, 2010 %I PhET %C Boulder %U %O 1.02 %O application/java

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source %D September 1, 2010 %T PhET Simulation: Magnet and Compass %I PhET %V 2024 %N 13 July 2024 %7 1.02 %8 September 1, 2010 %9 application/java %U

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Citation Source Information

The AIP Style presented is based on information from the AIP Style Manual.

The APA Style presented is based on information from APA Electronic References.

The Chicago Style presented is based on information from Examples of Chicago-Style Documentation.

The MLA Style presented is based on information from the MLA FAQ.

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PhET Simulation: Magnet and Compass:

Covers the Same Topic As Magnet Man: Cool Experiments with Magnets

A comprehensive set of hands-on lab experiments using permanent magnets and electromagnets, most of which can be adapted easily to the secondary science classroom.

relation by Caroline Hall
Covers the Same Topic As

A closely related simulation to explore how a compass responds to magnetic fields. A bar magnet may be moved about a compass to demonstrate strength-of-field. Remove the bar magnet to see the compass needle point north to the Earth's magnetic pole.

relation by Caroline Hall

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