[Northern lights (with Table
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The Earth is a huge magnet surrounded by magnetic fields, similar to the ones surrounding a rod magnet.
The images show the similarity between the Earth's magnetic field and the magnetic field around a rod magnet.
The Earth's magnetic field steers the charged particles from space in a way that makes them interact with the atmosphere way up north or down south, over the poles.
If you want to make sure that the magnetic field is shaped like this it is easily done. You need a rod magnet and some iron filings or a compass. Put the rod magnet on a plane surface and powder the iron filings around it, or move the compass back and forth around the magnet. Now it is possible to see the magnetic fields.