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The Earth’s Magnetism

 

Table of Content


Introduction to The Earth’s Magnetism

The reason why, A bar magnet, when suspended freely, points in north - south direction is due to earth’s giant magnetic field. It is believed that the electric currents circulating from earth’s core to the space give rise to the earth’s magnetic field. The earth’s magnetic field is supposed to save earth from the solar wind which might cause the ozone layer of the earth to strip away. The SI unit of earth’s magnetic field is given by tesla.

SI unit of earth’s magnetic field is given by tesla

Fig: SI unit of earth’s magnetic field is given by tesla


Theory of Earth’s Magnetism

There is no valid reason for the cause of earth’s magnetism or why earth has giant magnetic field but there are some theory related to earth’s magnetic field which helps us to understand that why earth behaves as a giant magnet.

  • It is believed that the magnetic field of earth is due to dynamo effect. Dynamo effect is caused by the motion of metallic fluids in the outer core of the earth which results in electric current. It is because of this electric current that the earth has its own magnetic field lines.

  • Another theory suggests that the rotation of earth in its own axis produces strong electric current since the outer layers of earth is ionized. As a result of which when the earth rotates, there is a movement of charged ions, which in return produces electric current.
     

Distinctive Aspect of Earth’s Magnetism

  • A hypothetical giant magnetic dipole is supposed to be located at the centre of the earth. It does-not coincides with the axis of earth. The dipole is tilted by 11.3° with respect to earth’s axis as shown in the diagram given below:

Pictorial representation of earth’s magnetic field

Fig: Pictorial representation of earth’s magnetic field

  • As it can be seen from the above diagram that there are two north (magnetic north and geographic north) poles and two south (magnetic south and geographic south) poles  located on the poles of the earth. The magnetic north and magnetic South Pole is the result of the dipole. The magnetic north pole is located at 79.74° N (latitude) and 71.8° W (longitude). Similarly, the magnetic south pole is located at 79.74° S (latitude) and 108.22°E (longitude)

  • If we observe carefully the magnetic field lines of the earth, we observe that the magnetic field lines enter the north pole and leaves the south pole unlike Bar magnet, where the magnetic field lines enter the south pole and leaves the north pole. This is because the magnetic north pole actually behaves like the south pole of a bar magnets and vice versa. It was named as magnetic north because the magnetic needle (North Pole) of the bar magnet pointed in this direction.
     

Component of Earth’s Magnetic Field

The components that are responsible for the magnitude as well as the direction of earth’s magnetic field at a particular place is given by:

  • Magnetic Declination

  • Horizontal Component of Earth’s Magnetic Field

  • Angle of Dip or Magnetic Inclination
     

Magnetic Declination

When a magnetic needle is suspended freely in the air, it always points in the north-south direction. This direction in which a magnetic needle points freely in a particular direction free form all other attracting forces is known as Magnetic Meridian.Magnetic Declination is defined as the angle made by the Magnetic meridian with the geographic meridian. Here geographic meridian is defined as the plane passing through the north and south poles of the earth.

The angle θ is known as the magnetic declination Pictorial representation of true geographic north and south-pole
Fig: The angle θ is known as the magnetic declination Fig: Pictorial representation of true geographic north and south-pole

 

Angle of Dip or Magnetic Inclination

Take a magnetic needle and suspend it freely so that it can rotate about a horizontal axis as shown in the diagram below:

Angle of dip or Magnetic inclination

  Fig: Angle of dip or Magnetic inclination

The angle that the north pole of the needle makes with the horizontal axis is known as the Angle of Dip or Magnetic Inclination.
 

Horizontal Component of Earth’s Magnetic Field

The magnetic intensity of the earth’s magnetic field makes an angle known as Angle of Dip (δ) with the horizontal axis. The intensity of earth’s magnetic field can be resolved into two components:

  • Horizontal Component(H)

  • Vertical Component(v)

These three elements of earth’s magnetic field give us sufficient knowledge about the magnitude and direction of earth’s magnetic field. However, these elements sometimes undergoregular or irregular changes at times at all places on earth. Some of the important variations of the elements are listed down below:
 

Variations in Earth’s Magnetic Field

  • Secular Variation: The magnetic axis undergoes a periodic change because of its spin around its own axis from east to west. The time cycle of this variation Id 960 years.

  • Eleven-year Sunspot Cycle: Once in every eleven year the earth faces the sunspot which is a region of strong magnetic field. Thus the magnetic activity of the earth is very much influenced during this variation.

  • Daily and Annual Variation: The earth’s atmosphere is ionized by the ultraviolet rays from the sun. As a result of which current is generated which further produces the magnetic field. This is the result of daily and annual variations.

  • Lunar Variations: Apart from sun, the moon also influences the magnetic activity of earth. Due to the tidal motions of the earth’s ionized layer during lunar eclipse, there is variation in earth’s magnetic field. This variation is known as Lunar Variation.

  • Irregular and Aperiodic Variation: During a particular period of time when the solar activity of the sun is more active, the radiations from the sun cause the atmosphere of the earth to get ionized. This causes current when the earth revolves around its own axis resulting in magnetic field.


Tangent Law or Superposition of Magnetic Fields

Consider a magnetic needle to be placed in space under the influence of two magnetic force or field which is perpendicular to each other. Clearly under the influence of both the magnetic field, the needle will try to set itself parallel. But a point will come when the two magnetic fields will be equal and opposite to each other. In such a case, the magnet will come to rest.
 

Conclusion

The ionization of earth’s atmosphere is the expected reason for the magnetic field around the earth. When the earth rotates on its own axis, the ionized particle also moves which gives rise to current that produces the magnetic field. However the exact theory or reason for earth’s magnetic field is yet not known. Various experiments are being carried out to know the characteristics of the earth’s magnetic field.

The effects on the earth’s magnetic field due to different variations proves the fact that the magnetic poles of the earth reverses with time, that is, the Earth’s Magnetic Field is flips with time not periodically but aperiodically and that the magnetic activity of the earth is very much influenced by the external factors such as the sun, moon etc.
 

Frequently Asked Question(FAQ)


Q1. Why the earth has a magnetic field?

Sol. There are various theories suggesting the reason behind earth’s magnetic field. However the two most considered theory is:

  • The current generated due to motion of liquids inside the earth’s core and

  • The current generated due to the movement of the ionized particle of earth’s atmosphere when the earth rotates around its own axis.
     

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The Earth’s Magnetism

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