Difference Between True North and Magnetic North

When creating a map, it is very important to know the difference between true north and magnetic north, because they both come into the equation when determining the distance of a particular location. While there may be some similarities, the differences between the two are huge.

Being land based is the major difference which separates true north from magnetic north as the latter is not land based. True north will always remain consistent and the same, while magnetic north is flexible and can change depending on your location.

Constellations can also help in finding out where true north is, while such methods cannot be applied to find the location of magnetic north. A major way to figure out the location of true north is the use of the North Star, which is used by travelers in seeking out true north. While on the other hand, a compass needle pointing north is the way to find out where magnetic north is due to the pull.

Because of the changing nature of magnetic north, maps are updated after a specific number of years, usually five, to update the position of magnetic north, while true north always remains fixed, constant, and the same.


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    True North

    The specific location on the planet, which is generally known as the North Pole, is known to be the direction of true north. Because of land masses and the fact that the poles on the Earth like the North and South are not changing, true north is fixed, constant, and is always in the same place it has been.

    On a map, true north is very important for the sense of direction and from which latitude and longitude lines extend themselves. Without true north, there would be no way of telling where the North and South Pole lie on the map, resulting in major confusion.

    Image courtesy: boatsafe.wordpress.com

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    Magnetic North

    The direction of north to which the needle of a compass points is known as magnetic north. This magnetic north is flexible and does not remain constant due to its changing nature, resulting in the need to constantly update maps after a certain number of years.

    Magnetic north is not the same as true north because it is not land based and the two have never been at the same location. However, at one point in history, they have been approximately 500 or so miles apart, which is the closest that they have ever been.

    Image courtesy: seekingtruenorth.com

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