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Magnetism is one of the main forces of nature, like the force of gravity. Like gravity, which causes objects to be attracted to each other, magnetism causes magnetized objects to be attracted to each other.

In most cases, planetary magnetic fields are made by currents of molten material which move around deep within a planet.

An example of the force of magnetism at work is the magnet from your kitchen which sticks to the refrigerator door.

On Earth, a simple compass can always be used to detect the presence of the magnetic field of the earth around you, as well as any other nearby magnetic field.

Material which is magnetic

There are a few materials which are naturally magnetic, and have the potential to be turned into magnets. Some of these materials are

  • iron
  • hematite
  • magnetite
  • ionized gases (such as the material stars are made of)
A magnet can be made to stick to objects which contain magnetic material such as iron, even if they are not magnets. But a magnet cannot be made to stick to materials which are plastic, or cotton, or any other material, such as silicate rock, which is not magnetic.

Just because a material contains iron or some other magnetic material, however, it may not be a magnet. It takes special conditions to turn magnetic material into magnets. That is because a magnet is an object from which the force of magnetism originates.