A common question many have with magnetic surveys is "How wide of a survey swath does a single magnetometer sensor cover on a single pass?" The answer is it depends on what is being searched for.

Magnetometers are passive instruments, meaning they don’t actively send out signals or have a limited swath or depth of exploration.

When planning a magnetic survey the grid (line spacing and waypoint spacing) should be designed using the best possible model of the target. There are some general rules of thumb that can be used to determine typical detection ranges for common iron objects. For example, a 10lb sledgehammer has been lost and needs to be found, and assuming this is 10lbs of pure iron, it would be expected to see a 1nT anomaly when the magnetometer sensor passes 6 meters over the top of the tool. Knowing this, survey line spacings should not be any narrower than 6 meters. With a line spacing of 3 meters, the chances of getting a clear anomaly goes up 8 fold as the 10lb iron sledgehammer would be at a minimum a 8nT anomaly vs a 1nT anomaly.

In a geological sense, let's say we have a mafic dike intrusion that we believe is running E-W and it extends at least 25 meters in the near-surface in a somewhat linear fashion. It's difficult to model the amount of iron in a geological structure like this, so the survey should be designed to cross the dike perpendicularly every 5 meters or so, making sure to cross over the dike several times. Each pass over the dike may exhibit an anomaly of similar amplitude, and the feature will show up as a clear linear feature in the final processed map.

For general mapping of geology, you have a lot of options. Most commonly mineral exploration surveys are done over very large areas, so the line spacing is wider to save time as the lower resolution model that results still accomplishes the task of finding large mineral deposits. If more detail is required, then a more fine-grained survey can be done later. 20m-50m line spacing is typical for mineral exploration surveys.

Design a survey grid to completely encompass the area of interest (i.e. make sure you get some data outside of the areas of interest, in case an interesting anomaly lies right along the edge). The founder of Geometrics the late Sheldon Breiner called this the Law of Search, as he often found his targets of interest along the edges of his archaeological magnetic surveys.

It is important to make sure the operator of the magnetometer is magnetically clean before surveying with the magnetometer. This means no steel toe boots, glasses or hats with metal fittings, cellphone, belt buckle, etc.

Magnetometer data acquisition is fairly simple, but data interpretation can be complex.