Do Compasses Work in Space?
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Thread: Do Compasses Work in Space?

  1. #1
    Just Some Dude in Jersey The Scifi Guy's Avatar
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    Do Compasses Work in Space?

    This is my Flash Gordon Space Compass:

    IMG_2007.jpg

    I bought it 20 years ago when I had my scifi/horror/fantasy radio show tape copying home business. It's from the 1930's and is still stapled to the card it was displayed on in the store. Cheap piece of plastic junk similar to what you used to get in a box of Cracker Jacks.

    20 years ago I had moved into a new apartment and one day the tv news said that that night was going to be the best time to see the Hale-Bopp comet fly by. They said to look in the northwest sky at about 10:30. I was new to the apartment and had no idea which direction the sun rose from(East). I went outside on that clear night and looked for the comet and didn't see schitt. "Dang, I need a compass!", so I looked all through my junk drawers and couldn't find a compass. Then it dawned on me: "Hey! Wait a minute! I have a Flash Gordon SPACE compass!" in my display cabinet. I got it out, got the needle to point North, looked a little to the left, and raised my arm and pointing finger to approximately 45*. There it was! Right at the tip of my finger! Wow!

    Then it dawned on me: Gosh, I must be the first person to actually find something in space using a Flash Gordon Space Compass! Things in space don't stay in the same place and don't consistently coincide with the N/S/E/W compass points here on Earth. And once you get far enough away from Earth, a compass probably wouldn't point towards Earth's North Pole. So, where would a compass needle point to in space? So I googled the question and got this quote: <<< If you are within the magnetic field of the Earth (which extends about one fourth the way to the Moon) or other magnetized body, yes the regular compass will work. Outside of this, the magnetic field away from the Sun and some of the other planets is probably too small to move the needle on a regular compass. >>> This means that my Flash Gordon Space Compass would be useless in space. I don't suppose that little kids in the 1930's thought about that. But it worked great for me while I was ON the Earth looking for a comet in the northwest sky!
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    RunOpel dpre's Avatar
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    There's the Gordo I have come to love You are probably a person that collects stuff and never gets rid of
    I think I saw a video of your house, I may be mistaken, but in my search of the thousand threads, I think there was a post from you that videoed your Opel stuff Am I correct or in another world If I'm correct, you do live in Opel world, that was amazing If I'm wrong, then whoever that person is, they live in Opel world.
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Scifi Guy View Post
    This is my Flash Gordon Space Compass:

    IMG_2007.jpg

    I bought it 20 years ago when I had my scifi/horror/fantasy radio show tape copying home business. It's from the 1930's and is still stapled to the card it was displayed on in the store. Cheap piece of plastic junk similar to what you used to get in a box of Cracker Jacks.

    20 years ago I had moved into a new apartment and one day the tv news said that that night was going to be the best time to see the Hale-Bopp comet fly by. They said to look in the northwest sky at about 10:30. I was new to the apartment and had no idea which direction the sun rose from(East). I went outside on that clear night and looked for the comet and didn't see schitt. "Dang, I need a compass!", so I looked all through my junk drawers and couldn't find a compass. Then it dawned on me: "Hey! Wait a minute! I have a Flash Gordon SPACE compass!" in my display cabinet. I got it out, got the needle to point North, looked a little to the left, and raised my arm and pointing finger to approximately 45*. There it was! Right at the tip of my finger! Wow!

    Then it dawned on me: Gosh, I must be the first person to actually find something in space using a Flash Gordon Space Compass! Things in space don't stay in the same place and don't consistently coincide with the N/S/E/W compass points here on Earth. And once you get far enough away from Earth, a compass probably wouldn't point towards Earth's North Pole. So, where would a compass needle point to in space? So I googled the question and got this quote: <<< If you are within the magnetic field of the Earth (which extends about one fourth the way to the Moon) or other magnetized body, yes the regular compass will work. Outside of this, the magnetic field away from the Sun and some of the other planets is probably too small to move the needle on a regular compass. >>> This means that my Flash Gordon Space Compass would be useless in space. I don't suppose that little kids in the 1930's thought about that. But it worked great for me while I was ON the Earth looking for a comet in the northwest sky!
    Not completely useless, you could use it to find your generator or distributor, whichever has the strongest magnetic field(we are after all talking about being in space with a primitive 30's space ship without modern electronics ).
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    Member terrylewisac's Avatar
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    OH DAMN GORDO
    I'm so happy to be back I'll be thinking about that all day
    THANK YOU SIR once again I needed that for sure
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    If you make it through an entire day and learned nothing you weren't paying attention

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    Über Genius First opel 1981's Avatar
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    The space compass is not useless junk.
    You could put it on your wrist and keep an eye on it while flying through the universe.
    When your ship stops going in the direction you want it to, or at the velocity you want it to, but you can't see a gravitational body, you can watch the needle to see if it points in the direction you're being pulled. If it does then you are near a black hole or rogue planet or some other weird, unknown, phenomenon.
    This is going to tell you the most important information that you may not even realize. When you get that reading on the compass, and know you are near a gravitational body, the two points of data show you that you are totally screwed and going to die.
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    There are magnetic fields in space...


    Solar winds hitting our magnetic field...


    Our magnetic fields even trap radiation in what are called Van Allen belts...
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    Über Genius First opel 1981's Avatar
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    Careful there Joseph,
    You might earn yourself a new nickname...

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  10. #8
    Hoosier Opeler Site Supporter rrossjr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Scifi Guy View Post
    This is my Flash Gordon Space Compass:
    Very cool item. In case you are wondering, I saw a one listed online for $75.00.
    Not to be pedantic (yeah, I know ) but there is no North, South, East, or West in space,
    so I would say that the compass would work in that it would continue to point to a magnetic field,
    but it would not be possible to assign that as "north" or any other direction.
    Cheers,
    RR
    Attached Images Attached Images
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    If they did, or had, then the gyroscope would never have been created. Yes, a compass may point towards a particular field, OR, it MAY point away from said field. Remember, opposites attract, and same repulse or deflect.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xweiQukBM_k
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  12. #10
    Just Some Dude in Jersey The Scifi Guy's Avatar
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    As the quote I quoted quoth, it takes a pretty decent strength magnetic field to get a compass's needle to move. Hence why they wander a bit. Ships have fluid filled compasses to dampen oscillation. Being near other strong fields or iron ore deposits can throw them off, so I can see that once you get "one fourth of the way to the moon", Earth's magnetic field has diminished enough to not have enough force to forcefully move the needle.

    Okay you smart fellas, now tell us WHY a compass points towards the North Pole. I tried finding explanations and what I found said something to the effect that magnets have North and South poles and that it's actually the South pole of the magnet in the compass that is pointing towards the North Pole because opposites attract when it comes to magnets.

    What I don't understand is: It this a positive/negative electrical relationship at play or something to do with those pesky "lines of force" that magnets have? When learning electricity I seem to recall something called the "left hand rule" or something like that in regards to the magnetic field in a coil. I remember something about using your hand as a reference guide and you stick your thumb and index fingers out and your rolled up other 3 fingers are the direction of the lines of force. It's all become fuzzy after all these years and the knowledge never did me any good.


    Tell us how magnets work.....
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    Pedal Smasher Autoholic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yellow73GT View Post
    If they did, or had, then the gyroscope would never have been created. Yes, a compass may point towards a particular field, OR, it MAY point away from said field. Remember, opposites attract, and same repulse or deflect.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xweiQukBM_k
    It depends on the altitude. For a lot of satellites, including the ISS, a compass would still point North. But, a compass won't provide a lot of information regarding the attitude of a space craft. More advanced navigational systems are needed to control a space craft. A gyroscope is very useful for creating navigational systems since it can be designed to always point a certain direction, providing more information than just which way is north.
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    Pedal Smasher Autoholic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Scifi Guy View Post
    What I don't understand is: It this a positive/negative electrical relationship
    You can trick a magnet. Take a magnet and put it close to a strong electrical current. You can create a magnetic force with electricity and all electrical currents have a magnetic field. Some are too small to easily detect.
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    Thumbs upYep that's our Gordo

    Quote Originally Posted by dpre View Post
    There's the Gordo I have come to love. You are probably a person that collects stuff and never gets rid of
    I think I saw a video of your house, I may be mistaken, but in my search of the thousand threads, I think there was a post from you that videoed your Opel stuff Am I correct or in another world If I'm correct, you do live in Opel world, that was amazing If I'm wrong, then whoever that person is, they live in Opel world.
    Wow, what an interesting conversation. Another cool fact is happening tomorrow, Mercury is going to cross the face of the sun. What does that mean? You will see a little small dot, much like an eclipse go in front of the sun, if you have a telescope and a sun filter on your telescope. Just don't look at the sun.

    I'm just glad he didn't hitch a ride.

    https://www.space.com/19931-hale-bopp.html
    From space.com. Hale-Bopp was probably one of the most viewed comets in history. It provided quite the sky show, being 1,000 times brighter than Halley's Comet at the time of its discovery, NASA said. Its twin blue-and-white tails were clearly visible even from light-polluted areas such as Chicago.
    Glad you here Gordo, Jarrell
    Last edited by soybean; 5 Days Ago at 08:48 AM.
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    too many words in this thread.

    Let's simplify.

    Does a compass work in space?

    No.
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    Pedal Smasher Autoholic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LynnB View Post
    too many words in this thread.

    Let's simplify.

    Does a compass work in space?

    No.
    Incorrect as a blanket statement. They do, when in close enough proximity to a planet with a magnetic field. The earth's magnetic field extends 1/4 of the way to the moon.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Autoholic View Post
    Incorrect as a blanket statement. They do, when in close enough proximity to a planet with a magnetic field. The earth's magnetic field extends 1/4 of the way to the moon.
    The compass was designed to find directions, normally based on finding magnetic north. In that sense the compass doesn't work in space, because where is north in space? North,south,east and west are two dimensional. But it does work to point at magnetic draws of proper polarity.
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    Just Some Dude in Jersey The Scifi Guy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rrossjr View Post
    Very cool item. In case you are wondering, I saw a one listed online for $75.00.

    Cheers,
    RR
    I got mine for $60 twenty years ago, doesn't look like it has appreciated much, so I guess I can't fund my retirement by selling it!

    Then again, stuff like that, that has an interesting, documented, story to go along with it, can fetch a few more dollars. Me being a psuedo scifi authority, albeit just in the realm of radio scifi dramas, might add some sheckles to it's value. Woo-hoo, maybe I could get $100 for it!

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    1000 Post Club kwschumm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Scifi Guy View Post
    I got mine for $60 twenty years ago, doesn't look like it has appreciated much, so I guess I can't fund my retirement by selling it!

    Then again, stuff like that, that has an interesting, documented, story to go along with it, can fetch a few more dollars. Me being a psuedo scifi authority, albeit just in the realm of radio scifi dramas, might add some sheckles to it's value. Woo-hoo, maybe I could get $100 for it!

    You could always mention how famous your compass is because it was discussed here!
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    Quote Originally Posted by kwschumm View Post
    The compass was designed to find directions, normally based on finding magnetic north. In that sense the compass doesn't work in space, because where is north in space? North,south,east and west are two dimensional. But it does work to point at magnetic draws of proper polarity.
    It will still point North in space at a close enough altitude / orbit. The satellite is orbiting Earth, so you still have a meaningful reference point. However, it won't tell you anything your eyes won't if you look out of a window and I'm pretty sure your eyes will give you something a lot more interesting to look at.

    Once you get far enough away from Earth, you do need an entirely different reference point for navigation and this is time dependent too. We haven't needed to make the center of the universe our reference point for navigation but it would be really cool if we ever get that advanced in space travel. That would mean we've developed warp drive technology that works. My limited understanding of the subject is that space would be what moves, so a really good navigation system would become critical.
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    Don't give Gordo any ideas about warp drive technology, he just might try and develop it for his GT
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