page 7 for
The Sun in Time
We study the Sun's magnetic field with an instrument called a vector
magnetograph. To understand what a vector magnetograph measures, we must first
understand what a vector is. A vector is simply a quantity which has
magnitude and direction. For instance, someone who says she has
traveled at 55 mph (the magnitude) toward the northeast (the direction) has expressed a
So, to have all the information about a magnetic field, we need to know how big it
is (its magnitude) and in what direction it's pointing. The figure below shows iron
filings distributed about a dipole (two poles) magnet. The iron filings trace out
the field of the magnet and demonstrate how magnetic field has a direction.
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