# Would a compass on its side point at the ground?

From a point just north of the equator, A straight line to the Magnetic North would be through the earth. If a compass was turned on it's side, would the north pointing arrow point toward the ground along that straight line?

If a compass was turned on it's side, would the north pointing arrow point toward the ground along that straight line?

No. A compass doesn't point at the north magnetic pole. It aligns itself with the local magnetic field. In many cases the azimuth of the field is sufficiently aligned with the location of the north magnetic pole to be useful.

Near the equator, the local magnetic field will have almost no vertical component. A dip circle (the correct instrument to use here) will show the dip angle and point horizontally.

Earth's Magnetism from Wikimedia commons

A compass is usually used to find the direction of the horizontal magnetic field of Earth at that point. The needle of a compass is very light and thus its efficiency decreases when the compass is not in the horizontal plane at that point (due to gravity).Therefore, where the compass would point will become unpredictable. But, yes, in ideal conditions, the compass would point along the straight line joining that point to the north pole.

• Thank You! That is what I thought. Sep 19, 2023 at 12:16
• See BowlOfRed's answer. A compass needle does not point toward the north geomagnetic pole in three dimensions. The needle aligns itself with the local magnetic field, and the two dimensional projection of the field onto the surface of the Earth is what points north and south. In the Soutern Hemisphere, the "north" end of the needle actually wants to point above the horizon, not below. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetic_dip Sep 19, 2023 at 12:43