What Is a Compass Needle?

A compass needle is a device that tells which direction is north, south, east and west. The needle is actually a magnet that is pulled toward the North Pole by the Earth's magnetic field.

This magnet is lightweight, due to the Earth's weak magnetic field, and is placed on a low-friction pivot point, which allows it to turn easily. Created sometime between the second century BC and first century AD in China, the compass was first made of lodestone, a natural magnet that attracts iron. Before the invention of the compass, people used landmarks and the stars to figure directional points.