Earth's Magnetic Field: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Michelle Faerber

Michelle taught elementary school for five years, then taught in the Education department at the university level for three years.

Can you remember a time you were outside on a sunny and hot day? You probably wanted to protect yourself from the heat with a hat or sunglasses. The earth also has a way to protect itself from the sun's rays: a magnetic field.

What is Earth's Magnetic Field?

Imagine a bubble that surrounds Earth. Earth's magnetic field acts like an invisible shield around Earth that protects it from dangerous things, like radiation from the sun. You might say it's Earth's super power. It's also called a magnetosphere, the most remote part of a planet's atmosphere. Earth's magnetic field's power begins at Earth's core. Let's learn more about how it and what it does.

The magnetic field around Earth protects it from solar activity.
Earth magnetic field

The inner and outer core of Earth is made of the metals iron and nickel. The inner core is a huge, solid, metal ball, and a liquid form of the metals flows around it, making up the outer core. The two cores spin and create magnetism. Imagine a giant magnet bar on the inside of the Earth. Now imagine a giant fountain flowing out of the north and south poles of the magnet. The magnetic fountain is always working because of the earth's core!

What Does It Do?

The magnetosphere protects Earth from solar radiation, which is energy given off from the sun. When dangerous radiation from the sun comes toward Earth, the magnetic field bounces that energy back into space. If we didn't have a strong magnetic field, our planet would overheat, the oceans would evaporate, and life on Earth would be destroyed. Other places like the moon and Mars don't have strong magnetic fields, and this is one reason they don't have oceans.

How Does It Work?

A magnet bar has two poles: north and south. If you had two magnets in your hand and you tried to put both north ends together, what would happen? They would repel and be forced apart. The same thing would happen if you tried to put both south ends together. The earth's core is like two magnet bars repelling from one another. Since Earth is in constant motion, the repelling just goes around and around Earth in a big circle. The circle gets bigger the further the force gets away from Earth.

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